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UKScreen Rating:

Bee Season – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Saul (Gere) is so busy with his work, lecturing university students on Kabballah (!), that he fails to notice what’s going on in his family – his daughter Eliza (Cross) is slowly winning her way through round after round of the local spelling bees, his son Aaron (Minghella, son of British director Anthony) is losing faith in his Jewish religion and his wife Miriam is, well, displaying some increasingly unstable behaviour.
One by one, the dominant – almost bullying – father is forced to confront what’s happening to his family. When he realises that he has a winner on his hands in Eliza, he devotes all his spare time to helping her practice, giving him less quality time with Aaron, thereby forcing him further into the hands of his new-age girlfriend.
By the time they realise what’s going on with Mum, it’s too late to do anything about it.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

After McGehee and Siegel’s previous collaborations, Suture and the Deep End, this is a tremendous disappointment – D.I.S.A.P.P.O.I.N.T.M.E.N.T. – disappointment.
It works on the basic level of showing a self-important man losing touch with his loved ones until it’s too late to stop his family decaying beyond repair.
But look deeper into the characters and there is little reason for much of what they do and the way they react is often uneven and unbelievable.
And if the film is actually meant to be about how it’s bad to be too self-centred, then rather than having Saul come across as a selfish beast, he actually seems to be most sympathetic character, as the only truly mature, sane person in the story. Eliza is, at least, cute.
As you’d expect from this pair of directors, there are some interesting visuals, but they distract from the story, rather than adding to it – how comes Eliza is so good at spelling? She sees the words she’s given actually spelling themselves out around her – but so what? The fact that she’s winning spelling bees is almost academic – the film would’ve worked equally well – if not better – had she’d been playing ice hockey or darts. At least sport would’ve been more dramatic. Even a music recital, or some other such skill, would’ve been more deserving of our attention. After all, just how interesting is it to watch a bunch of nerdy kids in a fictitious feature film act out trying to spell a succession of hard words? Not very, let me tell you.
One of the main thematic problems with the film is that calling it Bee Season makes it feel like it should be about Eliza, but taking all things into account, the story hangs better around Gere’s hapless father.
As such, the film lacks direction, and is basically a meandering, inconsequential, largely uninteresting and ultimately unsatisfying family drama, with little point to it.

Opens nationwide on 27th January 2006

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