Burt’s Buzz (2013)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

Canada, 2013.  Everyday Pictures, Buffalo Gal Pictures.  Cinematography by .  Produced by Jody Shapiro.  Music by .  Film Editing by .  

The highly successful line of personal care products that is now a billion dollar company was actually begun by a mild-mannered hippie, who continues to live in rural Maine without any luxurious amenities.   has become something of a celebrity even though Burt’s Bees is no longer his, having started it up with ex-girlfriend Roxanne Quimby before they parted ways personally and professionally.

Among the many issues the film treats gingerly (and not, as it likely intended, with much complexity) is the insinuation that Quimby’s vast fortune is something of a cheat, Burt having sold out his side of the company long before it became the giant it is now, while he appears to be more bitter over the loss of affection between them than anything material (this is what we are told by those around him, Burt’s comments on the issue are hazy at best). The products still bear his name, however, so Shavitz is frequently recruited to travel the world and appear to screaming fans who want to know all about him and his wild-man-of-the-woods ways.

This minor charmer does a thorough job of going through the man’s biography, from New York City kid to aging loner, and clearly admires the dedication that has kept him living pretty much the same life for decades without compromise. A little bit more critical introspection would have been appreciated, however: Burt doesn’t exactly have to reject all the luxuries thrown his way, but director Jody Shapiro could have gotten more feedback from him on the divide between his chosen way of life and the concessions he so easily makes (like, for instance, that he insists on living low-key but goes as far as Taiwan because of the money he is being offered).

This doesn’t make for a hypocritical or dishonest documentary, merely a slim one, a film that could easily have been a one-hour television program instead of a feature, but even without any explosive moments or fascinating conflicts it is a pleasant and not worthless experience.

Toronto International Film Festival:  2013


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