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Neil Berkeley's documentary on the work of artist Wayne White is often ludicrously charming....
Docurama / 88 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: January 22, 2013
Beauty Is Embarrassing is a rosy, winking, ultimately irresistible documentary. This SXSW hit documents the career and exploits of one Mr. Wayne White, an artist and scenester who made some notoriety for himself on the set of Pee-Wee's Playhouse as a set designer and then evolved into a major player on the modern art scene.
As director Neil Berkeley chronicles the artist's methods and philosophies, we're drawn starkly into White's rich, profanity-laden world. We see how the guy works, we get snippets from some of his banjo-heavy one-man performances, and we hear how his colleagues and contemporaries feel about his contributions to the aesthetic world (Matt Groening, Paul Reubens, and others offer earnest, positive interview material on White).
As jovial as Beauty Is Embarrassing is, though, one wishes Berkeley peeled back the onion a little. The doc is clearly designed more as a celebration of White's career than a legitimate investigative biography, so while the film retains an undeniable charm and whimsy, it feels sometimes sugar-coated and only skin-deep. But that doesn't mean there isn't fun to be had here: Beauty Is Embarrassing is an often thrilling testament to the joys of human creation, and one of the most underrated documentaries of 2012.