BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING
DIRECTED BY Neil Berkeley
STARS Wayne White, Mimi Pond
While there have been many documentaries about artists, Beauty Is Embarrassing, a look at the life and work of Wayne White, is probably closest in kindred spirit to Terry Zwigoff's 1994 Crumb. In both movies, it's made clear that these unusual men were driven to create, and that nothing could stop the artistic juggernauts that resided within their very souls.
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST: Wayne White poses with some of his works. (Photo: Future You Pictures)
The clear difference is that, for all his eccentricities, White is a far more grounded individual than R. Crumb, and while he does confess a fondness for a certain four-letter word — he loves to use "FUCK" in many of his pieces — he's not haunted by the sorts of demons that have long possessed Crumb and allow him to remain a lightning rod of controversy. Not surprisingly, this means that Beauty Is Embarrassing doesn't possess the gravitas of Crumb, but it's no lightweight, either. Among other subjects, it touches upon the artist's perpetual struggle to make money while remaining true to his or her ideals, examines the importance of a support system that allows someone the freedom to pursue a dream (in this case, the support system is Wayne's wife Mimi Pond, who wrote the very first episode of The Simpsons before electing to devote her life to Wayne and the kids), and, through Wayne's folks and friends back in Tennessee, intriguingly shows how having a child (or neighbor) who is different or odd doesn't mean that meat-and-potato types can't still traffic in encouragement and pride (an encouraging message in these times of bullying community outsiders).
If for no other reason, the film should at least be seen for its visuals — or, rather, for White's visuals. He was a three-time Emmy Award winner for his set work on Pee-wee's Playhouse, and we're treated to vintage footage of the show. We also see many of his paintings, emblazoned with such slogans as "STARFUCKER" and "EASTERN FUCK IT" (what did I tell ya about his proclivity for that word?). And we also witness him traipse around in a gargantuan Lyndon B. Johnson head, a sight as disconcerting as it is funny.