By Don Simpson | February 19, 2013
Director: Neil Berkeley
Some documentary filmmakers have all the luck in the world. Not everyone can find a wildly entertaining subject like Wayne White, but Neil Berkeley certainly did; more importantly, though, Berkeley sculpts a very interesting documentary from White’s personal narrative.
Primarily using first person interview footage with White, Berkeley captures the life of a successful-yet-struggling visual artist. The Tennessee native got his first taste of the high life (and I’m not talking about Miller beer either) while working as a production designer and puppeteer (among other roles) on Pee Wee’s Playhouse — a gig that earned him not one, but two Daytime Emmy’s. Unfortunately, when a visual artist wins two major awards so early in his career, things can only go down from there; and down things went, as White slaved away on a lot of failed and mediocre television and video projects (his work on the Smashing Pumpkins’ video for “Tonight, Tonight” was pretty damn extraordinary), nothing could ever compare to Pee Wee’s Playhouse. It took a while, but White finally woke up to the fact that he was not born to be a Hollywood production slave, he was born to be an artist; so he slammed on the brakes of the crazy rollercoaster ride of his life and returned to his true love…painting.
That right there is the heart and soul of Beauty Is Embarrassing: do what you love, don’t work your life away. Doing what you love is a very beautiful thing and there is absolutely nothing embarrassing about it. The theory is that if you do what you love, money and success will follow. White makes it look and seem so easy…and so tempting. I just wonder how much of White’s later success as an artist is due to the fact that he slaved away so hard for the first half of his career? I guess what I am getting at is that maybe doing what you love is something that has to be earned first? So maybe don’t give up that lucrative-but-shitty day job just yet… But you should stop reading my jibber-jabber and go watch Beauty Is Embarrassing right now!!!