Andrew Bujalski, Beeswax, 2009, still from a color film in 16 mm, 100 minutes. Jeannie and Lauren (Tilly Hatcher and Maggie Hatcher).
LET’S NOT DILATE—as many have—on whether writer-director Andrew Bujalski’s scripts are indebted to the languid stylings of Eric Rohmer, or the degree to which his characters are heirs to the lustful eccentrics in Woody Allen’s films. Let’s also forget about Mumblecore, the poorly named genre he’s said to have pioneered, which is distinguished by the directionless musings of late-twenty-somethings as they try to figure their shit out. If Bujalski’s Beeswax (2009), is any indication, he’s well on his way to surpassing most expectations.
Let’s begin, instead, with the end. It’s a bittersweet moment when the closing credits roll onto the screen. After nearly one hundred minutes of drifting plotlines and relaxed dialogue by a few affable and convincing nonactors (his friends are usually cast in the leading roles), just about everything is left perfectly unresolved. All that is clear is that this young director––he’s only thirty-two––is highly skilled at creating something out of (nearly) nothing. Call it sprezzatura.
The film follows twins Lauren and Jeannie (Maggie and Tilly Hatcher, also real-life twins) in Austin, Texas, as they swim into and out of romantic relationships and deal with sundry problems––Jeannie is quarreling with her business partner, and Lauren can’t decide whether she wants to take a teaching job abroad. There’s also Merrill (Alex Karpovsky), Jeannie’s ex, who is preparing for the bar exam and helping Jeannie with legal issues while falling, again, into her bed. When those credits appear, it might feel like you’ve known each of them for years.
Like Bujalski’s previous films, Funny Ha Ha (2002) and Mutual Appreciation (2005), Beeswax is a low-budget production. Yet it is a more complex work than the others, and its narrative, laced with ambiguities and false starts, is more attentive to character development. It should make Chantal Akerman, his Harvard film adviser, quite proud. All possible influences aside however, Bujalski has struck gold through a meeting of effort and ease, by doing it all his way.