Film : Martha's Vineyard Film Society presents "Beeswax" at Katharine Cornell
Life for the 20-something generation according to "Beeswax" may not be aimless, but it is messy and talkative. Andrew Bujalski's latest mumblecore film (a genre of movie with nonprofessionals playing 20-somethings finding their way) will play Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Katharine Cornell Theatre under the sponsorship of the Martha's Vineyard Film Society.
A director who helped originate the independent movement where young adults seem to talk a lot more than act but do it in very natural-seeming ways, Mr. Bujalski has fine-tuned out much of the tediousness of mumblecore. "Beeswax" may meander, but it does so purposefully and ultimately with a certain grace.
The film's title surely comes from the 1920s phrase, "mind your own beeswax," a glib way to tell someone not to pry. That's what "Beeswax" seems to be telling the rest of us: worry less about big glamorous goals, material goods and status.
Mr. Bujalski also may be giving the audience a playful poke in the ribs by casting identical twins as the lead characters in "Beeswax." Members of the 20-something generation can look alike, but they surely don't act the same.
Jeannie (Tilly Hatcher) runs Storyville, her second-hand clothing shop in Austin, Texas, from a wheelchair. More serious than her free-spirited, currently jobless sister Lauren (Maggie Hatcher), she worries that her mostly absent business partner, Amanda (Anne Dodge), might sue her.
While Lauren blows off a boyfriend faster than he can put his clothes back on, Jeannie is cautious and considerate about taking back her ex-boyfriend Merrill (Alex Karpovsky), who just finished law school and is studying for his bar exam.
Details like these gradually build into a universe that feels comfortable and lived in. Narrative tension doesn't grow in the breathless, what-will-happen-next fashion of conventional Hollywood movies, but there is a story to tell.
The danger exists that the audience will get left behind without the conventional plot points and character labels that provide road signs. The annoyingly elusive Amanda does come and go in an over-attenuated fashion, but most of the other characters in "Beeswax" stay interesting enough that we're happy to see them walk on and off the set.
The twin's mother, for instance, has a female companion, but Mr. Bujalski offers only enough information about the couple to make us want to know more.
Corinne (Katy O'Connor), Storyville's newest employee, does more than ask where to find a new light bulb for the dressing room. She goes to a demonstration about marital equal rights and has a meltdown in the shop's back room for some unspecified reason that Jeannie is too polite to ask her about.
Will Lauren fly to Nairobi to take a new job? Can Jeannie find a new business partner? Is Amanda pregnant? These are major, life-changing matters that anyone can relate to. Only the manner of addressing them has changed.
With confident camerawork and well-timed cuts, Mr. Bujalski defuses them in ways that make them seem more like real life. His approach to cinematic storytelling in "Beeswax," while not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, is polished and refreshing.
"Beeswax," Saturday, Nov. 21, 7:30 pm. Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. Tickets $8 ($5 for MV Film Society members) No advance sales. Doors open at 7 pm. For more information, go to mvfilmsociety.com.
Brooks Robards writes about film, art, and books for The Times.