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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20.75%
Worth A Look24.53%
Pretty Bad: 20.75%
Total Crap: 9.43%

6 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Bee Season
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by William Goss

"Vowel Movement"
2 stars

As a frequent moviegoer, suspending disbelief has become a force of habit. Rarely will a film come along that so blatantly conflicts with such a reflex. The climax of 'Bee Season' arrives in the form of the final round of the national spelling bee, where the all-deciding word is none other than…“origami.” That’s right: ori – #$*&%!@ – gami. And this comes after almost 100 minutes of vacant religious drivel. It’s, well, unbelievable.

Eliza Naumann (Flora Cross) just won her school spelling bee, but no one in her family has any idea. Her father, Saul (Richard Gere), a professor of Kabbalah studies, is too preoccupied with her older brother, Aaron (Max Minghella, son of director Anthony), to take notice. Her mother, Miriam (Juliette Binoche), has distanced herself with work in the office and at home. However, once young Eliza wins on the district level, Saul shuns Aaron in favor of Eliza’s newfound glory, eager to exploit her talent for religious relevance. As an act of rebellion, Aaron starts to pursue other faiths, finally swayed by a chance meeting with a Hare Krishna named Chali (Kate Bosworth), and Miriam begins to disappear to locations unknown late at night, arousing suspicion from her husband.

When Aaron first meets Chali, he shares with her how his mother converted from Catholicism because it all felt like “empty ritual.” The same could be said for Bee Season, the latest film from directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel (The Deep End). The film, adapted from Myla Goldberg’s 2000 novel, chronicles each family member’s quest for greater spirituality by various means, from spelling to stealing, but fails to enlighten the audience as well. Saul’s effort to treat a dictionary as scripture becomes increasingly hokey as he encourages his daughter to focus her abilities on divine communication via Jewish mysticism, and Aaron’s pursuit of other beliefs is rather cut-and-dry. Meanwhile, Miriam’s odd excursions are interspersed with implications of a tragic car accident that is never fully explained.

That leaves Eliza, the most agreeable character, simply because her innocence excludes her from the affairs of adults, whose pressing priorities revolve around fulfilling their relentless thirst for spiritual satisfaction. Played with conviction by newcomer Cross, she conveys a sense of composure that surpasses those who surround her, and her penchant for vocabulary echoes genuine wisdom beyond her years. Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided her thought process during spelling bees should be animated, so that the words she spells come to life and bring with them a sense of forced whimsy.

The matters of everyone else are too tidy for their own good, and the leads do little to change that particular facet. Gere plays his one note as hard as he can, but eliminates any and all possible sympathy in the process. On the flipside, Binoche’s role is so blurrily defined that her performance is vague and bothersome. However, Minghella makes an admirable effort to bring depth to his part, as the only Naumann who has a grasp on the big picture, between the parents’ agitation and dear Eliza’s purity.

Towards the end, Miriam remarks to Saul that he talks and talks and talks, but all that comes out are empty words. Ain’t that the truth? 'Bee Season' spells everything out, and the result is less than spellbinding. Seldom do films manage to be so self-satisfied, so overwhelmingly pretentious, and so very dull. D-U-L-L.

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originally posted: 11/18/05 17:55:50
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2005 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2005 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/11/12 Mariflor Boring, couldn´t understand it at all. 2 stars
4/15/11 Robynne They struggle for enlightenment; She has it without trying. Simply beautiful! 5 stars
2/23/08 George Allenzo Wow, what a terribly boring crap!!! 1 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann Just tossing spirituality into a movie does not = deep meaning.Try again! 2 stars
8/20/07 Donald McGovern Much Ado Over Nothing! 2 stars
5/15/07 David Pollastrini Boooooring! 2 stars
8/21/06 J.D. Jirucha boring, dark, many unresolved plots, total waste of my time 2 stars
11/29/05 Louisa ugh 1 stars
11/29/05 Suzz a disjointed, disconnected film about connection. Miss it. 3 stars
11/21/05 Dagi Schmidt, writer of commentary book about 30 movies with R. Gere very sensitive adoption with a fligran screenplay 5 stars
11/12/05 jennifer pretentious crap 1 stars
11/09/05 tanja delightful, filled with messages 4 stars
11/05/05 May J. Abomination 1 stars
10/26/05 Ellen Genge awesome 5 stars
9/29/05 jason Grimshaw Beautiful and moving 5 stars
9/14/05 evelyn knowland extremely moving 5 stars
9/08/05 Lorna James horrible. 1 stars
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  11-Nov-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 04-Apr-2006

  27-Jan-2006 (12A)


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