Release Date: November 11th, 2005 by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
The Cast: Richard Gere, Juliette Binoche, Flora Cross, Max Minghella, Kate Bosworth.
Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel.
BASIC PREMISE: In order to save his family life from falling apart, Saul Naumann (Gere) must come to terms with his Hare Krishna-obsessed son Aaron (Minghella), his compulsive wife Miriam (Binoche), and his 11 year-old daughter Eliza (Cross), who is very talented at spelling bees.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Even among Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche, Flora Cross gives the most surprisingly strong performance as Eliza. The true-to-life screenplay helps to make her character into a complex person who seems well beyond her years. Her uncanny resemblance to Juliette Binoche will unflinchingly lead to you believe that they’re both truly mother and daughter. What could have been a simple, predictable film about winning spelling bees becomes a complex, constantly surprising drama with believable characters going through difficult obstacles in their life. After her father, a college professor in Judaic Studies, teaches her about Kabala, she looks beyond words for spiritual guidance. Her awakening becomes surreal at times, with visually-stunning scenes, such as hallucinations of thousands letters coming together to form words when she closes her eyes. Her brother Aaron also has an awakening of a different sort after he meets Chali (Bosworth), who convinces him to explore the lifestyle Hare Krishnas behind his father’s back. Miriam, his mother, visits an empty house overlooking a cliff for some strange reason, which only becomes clearer in the heavy third-act. You would think that she might be cheating on her husband, but there’s not enough evidence to conclude that. The beautiful cinematography and even the special effects makes Bee Season very beautiful to look at. The transitions between scenes are slightly abrupt at times, such as a spelling-bee competition that’s slightly cut too short. However, there are so many intricate details and surprises throughout this film that it’s undeniably easy to be completely immersed in each family member’s life and, in turn, to truly care about them.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Saul teaches Eliza about how to approach the spiritual part of life. First, there’s the concept of Tikkun Olam, a Judaic term which translates as “to fix the world”. In many ways, Saul tries to fix his small world—his family—by paying more individual attention to them. Then there is Kabala, which is the belief that metaphysics can lead you closer to God. Eliza must deal with balancing the real with the metaphysical and, in one very heartbreaking scene, she goes through a nervous breakdown and collapses. The way her character changes by the very last scene touches your heart and even makes you shed a few tears of joy.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: A few abrupt transitions.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
THE BOTTOM LINE: Emotionally-powerful, profound, complex, and beautiful from start to finish. It will leave you in a state of awe! You will never want it to end!
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
The "B" Menu