Monday, April 5, 2010

To be released tomorrow on DVD: "Beeswax"

Grade: B-plus

Beeswax, the third film by mumblecore director Andrew Bujalski is a happy surprise: An understated and curiously intriguing slice-of-life comedy-drama about two Austin, Texas, sisters (played by twins Tilly and Maggie Hatcher) in their 20s.

One sibling, a wheelchair user, runs a funky-clothing boutique, and the other is contemplating a teaching job in Africa. There's a rekindled romance with an ex-boyfriend (Alex Karpovsky) who just graduated from law school, and a threatened lawsuit by the boutique's co-owner (Anne Dodge).

The plot is thin - the movie is about the characters and the dialogue, which is deceptively low-key. That's part of the essence of mumblecore (Jay Duplass' The Puffy Chair is an early example), with its air of improvisation, use of nonprofessional actors and focus on young adults' relationships.

The wheelchair user is independent and capable, but unnerved by the possible legal action; the other sister walks out on her boyfriend early in the film, and remains somewhat at loose ends - she's the type who forgets her wallet at a restaurant. It all sounds trivial, but the characters command your attention.

There are viewers and critics who simply can't abide mumblecore. But give this movie a chance: Bujalski has a serious talent for finding resonance in the mundane.

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