Is Bhutan a blue state? Ask Mary, a widowed mom quietly living the red-state life in an increasingly yuppified New England exurb when a Bush-hating neighbor starts tempting her teenage daughter with dreams of escape—either to the Orient or that other exotic locale, Columbia University. Why would anyone waste time and money going to either, Mary asks, as both her kids suffer the stifling consequences of Mom’s closed-minded class-bound desperation.
Daisy Foote’s Bhutan superbly documents the toll taken on the blue-collar family in the age of Nickel and Dimed America. Mary used to work at a bank but now wears a Star Market checkout-lady badge; she sees economic salvation in selling her father’s property to a McMansion developer. Foote may stack the deck in favor of the daughter’s bookish sensitivity, but Tasha Lawrence’s performance endows Mary with enough stoicism and smarts to present the other side fairly and compellingly. Instead of trusting the potential of such finely observed naturalism, though, Foote punches up her script with an unnecessary prison-drama plot and a back-and-forth chronology. Evan Yionoulis’s production is polished and well acted, but like Foote’s Bhutan-versus-Budweiser schematics, a little too neat and tidy to convey the true messiness of the characters’ social conflicts.