Writer-director Andrew Bujalski follows up his well-received "Funny Ha Ha" and "Mutual Appreciation" with "Beeswax," a subtle, amusing film filled with charm and spontaneity that displays the filmmaker's gift for creating an acute sense of life being lived before our very eyes. He and his cast of nonprofessional actors are impressively adept at revealing subtexts in everyday existence -- inner conflicts, uncertainties, shifting goals and priorities. As Bujalski has said himself of "Beeswax": "It's about families . . . people taking care of each other when they want to, when they need to, and when they ought to."
The film's central figure is Jeannie (Tilly Hatcher), the co-owner of an Austin, Texas, vintage clothing store. The young, attractive Jeannie is completely poised about using her wheelchair but is increasingly concerned that her business partner, Amanda (Anne Dodge), seems to be losing interest in the shop. The largely absent Amanda is maddeningly elusive about her intentions, and Jeannie begins to feel that Amanda, whose lawyer father drew up their business contract -- quite possibly to his daughter's advantage -- may be planning to sue her.
Bujalski is not so interested in what Amanda has in mind but in how Jeannie handles her anxieties about her business dealings once her ex-boyfriend Merrill (Alex Karpovsky), a would-be lawyer who's studying for the bar, resurfaces. Their romance rekindles, and Merrill is determined to help Jeannie in any way he can. Others in Jeannie's life are more problematic. Her equally lovely sister, the carefree (and perhaps careless) Lauren (Maggie Hatcher), seems concerned but is also focused on her own pastimes and landing an overseas teaching job.
"Beeswax" may take its title from the expression "It's none of your beeswax." In other words, what the audience is observing on-screen is, in fact, none of its business, but it's compelling nonetheless. Part of the film movement known as "mumblecore," Bujalski is very much interested in how people -- in his instance, quite intelligent, civilized and articulate twentysomething individuals -- cope with life's everyday challenges, finding naturalistic drama in what may initially seem pedestrian and mundane. "Beeswax" has a rhythmic quality, and it eschews conventional plotting for sharp observation of human strengths and foibles.
MPAA rating: Unrated
Running time: 1 hour,
Playing: Exclusively at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles