Richard Gere stars in this gripping tale about a father obsessed with training his talented daughter for the National Spelling Bee. Eliza Naumann (Flora Cross) demonstrates such an amazing gift for spelling any word given ... more »to her that her father Saul (Gere) insists on coaching her himself. But as Eliza's success continues, Saul's newfound devotion grows causing huge changes for the entire family!« less
Entire family felt as though we missed half the movie and found it difficult to understand. Characters only 1/2 developed and story line that starts somewhere in themiddle and ends even more confusing. Good movie to watch if you plan to sleep through it.
2 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Duane S. (superpoet) from FORT WORTH, TX Reviewed on 7/25/2008...
This is the story of a father(Gere) and daughter(Cross) who start on the road towards the National Spelling Bee and how his obsessive involvement with her winning the Spelling Bee changes the entire family. She is a savant when it comes to spelling words; and her dad is convinced she has a God given gift of psychic ability; and wants her to become a mystic in the Jewish Kabala religion. Her mother has a long held secret of kleptomania she has been keeping from the family; and she ends up in a mental institution at the end of the film. The brother becomes a Hindu which angers the father.
4 of 6 member(s) found this review helpful.
It's not about spelling. It's about God.
Benjamin | ATLANTA, Gabon | 11/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On the surface, this looks like it's a movie about spelling, but that's about as accurate as calling "Charlie's Angels" a TV show about law enforcement. "Bee Season," directed by David Siegel and Scott McGehee, is about how four members of a Jewish family individually attempt to "touch" God and how these actions rip them apart and then bring them together. Richard Gere gives a career-high performance as Saul Naumann, the patriarch of the family. Saul's a professor of religion who, through studies of mysticism, attempts to reach God through his achievements and, in some ways, his ego. At the film's opening, he's so preoccupied with his work that he essentially ignores his family. His wife Miriam (Juliette Binoche) feels disconnected from Saul, and her life contains secrets that she doesn't let anyone else know. Their son Aaron, played by Max Minghella, tries to seek out God through alternate religions almost as a way to gain his father's attention. Their 11-year-old daughter Eliza, meanwhile, is a genuine mystic, something that's discovered when she wins her class spelling bee. Everyone else in her family is trying to discover the truth about God, but, to Eliza, God just is. She feels Him and senses Him in everything around her. When she spells, she sees God in the words and suddenly the letters just appear in her mind. Young actress Flora Cross plays Eliza, and her remarkable performance holds the entire film together. The film addresses big philosophical ideas bravely, making points relatable. It takes concepts of faith and translates them visually. And, aside from all that, the film has a compelling, complicated story that's filled with twists and surprises. This movie came and went from theaters with very little buzz, which is a shame. It's one of the most thought-provoking films of the year."
A Complicated Spiritual Journey--Don't Come To The Ambitious
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 11/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Surprisingly, "Bee Season" is one of the most difficult films that I have chosen to review. Why? It's an incredibly ambitious, adult and serious piece. And while I don't think, ultimately, that it was wholly a success--I admire it for striving to be great. With so many films choosing to play it safe, it's hard for me to criticize a film that goes out on a limb--for this film asks us to examine language, family, faith, spiritualism, mental illness, and religion. Those looking for an inspirational spelling bee story are in for a surprise as you are asked to spend time with this deeply intelligent and deeply flawed family.
Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche play the parents in what looks to be an idyllic upper middle class family. They play well off one another and are a credible onscreen couple. This is a good role for Binoche, and Gere is positively captivating as a demanding, sometimes inattentive, intellectual. Binoche is haunted by a secret and driven by a force unseen, and her confusion is palpable. Max Minghella, as the son, spends much of the film in intellectual debate with his proud dad. They have the bond of teacher and protege as much as father and son. When the daughter, Flora Cross, displays an uncanny aptitude for spelling--there comes a shift. Suddenly Gere focuses on her success and alienates Minghella.
Everyone is on a mission in "Bee Season," a spiritual journey. Everyone is looking for what will complete them, not realizing that perhaps they already have the answers before them. There are a lot of kaleidoscopic images (a not so subtle metaphor for their fractured lives), and some great visual trickery during the spelling competitions. I admired the way the movie was put together, it is very compelling visually--but the symbolism is layered on a bit thick.
Before things conclude, there are examinations of different faiths including Judaism and a sect of Hare Krisnas. But in the film's most startling moment, we seek to communicate to God himself. I can't remember the last studio film of a serious nature so bold in it's choices. Again, some might see these things as heavy handed or incomprehensible--not everything worked for me. The film's biggest flaw was Binoche's character--with much of her backstory left to the imagination, it's hard to understand why what is happening to her is happening now. She's led a seemingly normal life--and nothing seems to have changed--I wanted a better understanding.
Aspects of "Bee Season" have lingered with me. As you can see, many people loathe this film--with some merit, it has been mismarketed to a certain degree. But for serious thought and contemplation, I recommend the film. It's 3 1/2 stars--there's a lot of ambiguity--but I'm rounding up for sheer ambition. KGHarris, 11/06."
You'll ADORE it or not get it at all...
Katy | Iowa | 05/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First my bias, this is my favorite film of all time. This should be classified as an intellectual film, and not simply an entertainment-style movie. If you are the type that is interested in mysticism, exploring other religions, intellectual hypocrisy, the way we repair grief and family dysfunction, healing, and forgiveness you will love this. It touches on deep, deep topics and references other films often (the opening sequence is a clear reference to Fellini, for example). If you're not interested, or worse, turned off by these topics, RUN, don't walk the other direction.
On the surface this story is about a 6th grade Jewish girl, Flora, who feels neglected by her father until she begins to win spelling bees. Slowly his focus begins to switch to her, but then other dysfunctions in the family become more apparent. The writers, directors, and actors did and excellent job portraying a depth and breadth of this story. It is not about spelling- it never was.
It is about how we let God flow through us. It is about whether mysticism is truly rare. It is about whether those who teach religion - or even claim it - really understand it or act on it in any sort of heartfelt way. It is about hypocrisy. It is about how the actions or inactions of people can have major consequences to tear us apart or to bring reconciliation. It's about the fragmented nature of a broken world. It's about how we deal with our grief over that world. How our role in that world is to do whatever we can-however small- to help put back together the fragments again. It's about poetry. I highly recommended this film!"
A welcome, soft touch in dealing with faith, truth and relig
A. Ryan | Westminster, CA USA | 05/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Everything in this film comes right back to Light: light is truth, light reveals what is hidden, light guides us; light confuses us only when shattered and scattered, so therefore the quest to restore and make whole is at the heart of all religion. Bee Season is the story of the Naumann family and their need to become whole again, as individuals and as a group.
On the surface the Naumann family appears to be a wonderful example of enlightened, upper middle class togetherness. They are each accomplished, intelligent and educated, living and working harmoniously and respectfully in the same house - but it's funny how a single change can upset their dynamic and expose secrets. When 6th grader Eliza enters a spelling bee at her school, she has no idea of the ripples that would spread through her household from this one innocent act. You see, Eliza has been gifted with an unusual link to the Divine; she is able to hear from and see God in small bits of light that reveal the hidden secrets of words. She has true mystical ability, and despite being the youngest and most naive in her family (or perhaps because of it), Eliza is far closer to the truth of God than any of them. The rest are each busy hiding secrets from the world or from themselves, and so end up distancing themselves from finding the truth in the end. Her father pursues truth obsessively through academia, while ignoring everybody but Eliza in whom he recognizes this divine spark on some level while not understanding the nature of it. Her mother is desperately attempting to heal her own shattered psyche by gathering stolen facets of pretty glass together - a way of collecting light, to her way of thinking. Her brother Aaron is the only honest man in his own way - he has little self-delusion, searching for God, meaning and truth with open zeal. Aaron only has problems facing his parents with his doubts about Judaism, but it would seem as if that alone is enough to keep him from complete revelation.
Although much of the premise of this film's plot derives from Kaballistic teachings (with which I disagree as a Christian), I do think that there is a great deal of wisdom in the way this story tells of the need for simple, childlike faith and the futility of readching God through your own terms. What's more, there's something joyful about seeing the hidden world of the Divine through a child's eyes. IMHO the talents of actress Flora Cross and the director of Bee Season pulled this off particularly well.
Bee Season has as much to do with spelling as Magnolia was about flowers, which is to say, very little. Be prepared instead for a light and magical experience woven though with universal human frailties. -Andrea, aka Merribelle. "
"It's Not What They Look Like, It's What They Feel Like" ~ R
Brian E. Erland | Brea, CA - USA | 09/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Synopsis: Saul Naumann (Richard Gere) is a professor of Jewish Theology at a Berkeley university. He is a man of culture, intelligence and depth, however when it comes to his familial relationships he is not a man of wisdom. He appears to love his wife Miriam (Juliette Binoche) and two children Aaron and Eliza (Max Minghella and Flora Cross) and desires only the best for them as he continually pushes them to succeed in both education and the arts. Unfortunately Saul sees only what he wants to see. His wife struggles with feelings of alienation and his children feel appreciated only when they live up to their Father's expectations.
Saul's one true passion is the study of Jewish mystical thought and practice known as Kabbalah. A man of words, he laboriously studies the ancient texts hoping to discover the right words and techniques of combining sound and vibration that will allow him "to reach the ear of God". Ironically in his quest to attain union with the Divine he has unwittingly distanced himself from his emotions and the one's he loves.
Their impending family crisis comes to its apex when his youngest child Eliza wins the school spelling bee championship and later confides in her Father the secret of her success. To his amazement his daughter has received the mystical gift he has coveted for so long. Will this gift serve to heal the family wounds, or will it pull them further apart?
Critique: Released in '05, `Bee Season' is as subtle and nuanced film which beautifully and faithfully captures the mind and soul of Jewish mysticism and its profound applications to everyday life. Based on the novel of the same name by Myla Goldberg, the screenplay adaptation by Naomi Foner Gyllenhall is magnificent. Whether you're a student of Kabbalah or have never heard of it before the storyline touches on so many levels you're sure to appreciate the beautiy and elegance of this film.