As the ultimate palate cleanser to a summer loaded with muscular grunting and exploding dystopias, comes the thoughtfully wispy and lovely Beeswax, an "in-action" movie if there ever was one.
Set in the funky back alleys of hipster Austin, Texas, the movie lazily follows a set of twins, Jeannie and Lauren (real-life sisters Tilly and Maggie Hatcher), who have the same face but couldn't be more different. Maggie Hatcher Lauren is an athletic and freewheeling social butterfly, while Jeannie is wheelchair-bound and a studious vintage clothing store owner. When faced with a legal threat from her business partner, Jeannie retreats to the relative safety of her law school student ex-lover Merrill (Alex Karpovsky), while Lauren simply retreats from anything that seems like a hassle, scary stuff like a steady boyfriend or career prospects. The plot's so slight it doesn't cast a shadow, but the obliqueness of these mundane struggles leaves plenty of room for the viewer to fill in with imagined details from their own lives.
These folks are the spiritual descendants of the art-damaged stragglers of Richard Linklater's seminal Slacker, smart people reluctant to care and not bold enough to get out of their own way.
The characters are all big balls of neurotic twine, and watching them slowly unravel can be maddening. They are so eager to ignore or shrug off their problems, you'll be inclined to do the same, but something about Beeswax draws you closer.
The performances, for all their stuttering gawkiness, feel organic, with a sort of quiet, pre-coital intimacy throughout.
Director Andrew Bujalski has been dubbed the father of "mumblecore," a genre that sees a host of young directors working in a similar naturalistic vein with such artists as David Gordon Green and Miranda July. And Bujalski shares director Mike Leigh's skill at making the mundane interesting, giant even, though he doesn't quite have Leigh's bitterness, or flair for language. Beeswax is compelling but frustratingly minor, and your willingness to peer deeper into these messy, unfinished lives may depend on if you think feeling things isn't cool.
Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-3237), at 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 18-19, and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 20.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.