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The Bee Season
cast: Richard Gere, Juliette Binoche, Flora Cross, Max Minghella, and Kate Bosworth

directors: Scott McGehee, David Siegel

104 minutes (12) 2005
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Emily Webb
Eliza is a prodigious talent and competes in spelling bees. Her father Saul (Richard Gere) is a rabbi and professor of religious studies and is convinced that Eliza has the ability to hear the kabbalistic word of God. As Eliza draws closer to the National Spelling Bee finals, her family descend further downward in their dysfunction.

Based on the novel of the same name by Myla Goldberg, The Bee Season explores the ideas of god-knowledge (shefa) described by the kabbalist, Abraham Abulafia. The kabbalistic theme dominates this film, to its detriment. What is more interesting is Juliette Binoche's character Miriam, who appears as a loving and functional mother at the start of the film but gradually becomes more detached from her family and engrossed in her own emotional trauma, which frustratingly is never really explored adequately.

Saul and Miriam's son Aaron, played by Max Minghella (son of director Anthony Minghella) also becomes isolated and turns to the Hare Krishna religion to rebel against Saul. It is a very deliberate rebellion by Aaron who knows this will devastate his devout father.

To the detriment of the rest of his family, Saul invests all his energies and attention into Eliza, who, it turns out, is an extraordinarily gifted girl. She is also, it appears, the glue that keeps this fragile family together and is very perceptive about what will bring her family back together. (I won't reveal how she does this!)

I found the start of Bee Season really compelling but unfortunately, it got too clever and stylised for its own good and I found myself very relieved when it was finished. It may be that the themes and narrative of Goldberg's novel do not translate easily to the screen but I just felt unsatisfied at the end, bored by the whole thing.

Richard Gere is irritating at the best of times and he doesn't disappoint here. Binoche is good as usual and in their debuts Flora Cross and Max Minghella are the standouts in this visually attractive, far-too-clever-for-its-own-good, Kabbalah advertisement.

Extras include: six deleted scenes with optional directors' commentary, audio commentary by directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel, The Essence Of Bee Season featurette, The Making Of Bee Season featurette, trailers.

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