If you want to see what happens when independent filmmakers have too much money and don't know what to do with it, just go see "Bee Season," a film adaptation of the book by Myla Goldberg.
Directors Scott McGehee and David Seigel, who were most recently responsible for "The Deep End" with Tilda Swinton, go off the deep end like degenerate gamblers on some kind of crack high. They employ all kinds of ridiculous special effects to draw a connection between the supernatural and the amazing spelling abilities of young Eliza Naumann (Flora Cross). In doing so, they commit a classic sin in filmmaking: They sublimate their story for lots of gloss.
Not that this film has a compelling story anyway. On its surface, it's about Eliza advancing in the National Spelling Bee Finals. Frankly, I sat through the whole thing wanting to exit so I could go rent the documentary "Spellbound." Unfortunately, "Bee Season" tries to weave lots of ridiculous family dynamics into the mix, which ultimately just alienates the audience from the characters.
The father, Saul Naumann (Richard Gere), is the kind of bad parent found hiding behind many young overachievers these days. He appears to care so much it hurts, yet he blatantly favors whichever one of his children is succeeding the most. At the beginning of the film, that's Aaron (Max Minghella), who plays the violin and is interested in his Dad's fascination with the Kabballah. However, once Eliza begins winning her bees, Saul focuses all his attention on her, leaving Aaron in the cold while attempting to connect Eliza's amazing spelling abilities with the supernatural.
While Eliza rises through the spelling bee ranks, we're treated to her mother, Miriam's (Juliette Binoche) complete meltdown, which is treated with all the compassion and seriousness of a potato sack race. Then there's Aaron, who lashes out at his father's turn of attention by falling for Chali (Kate Bosworth) and joining the Hare Krishnas. Ultimately, this entire family dynamic is saved by typical Hollywood convention: the child that seems to know everything. In this case, not only does Eliza appear to be some kind of mystical oracle, she also provides her father with that all-important perspective on the meaning of life at precisely the right time. She's like the love child of Dr. Phil and Yoda.
Unfortunately, it'll probably take me years of therapy to forget this awful film.
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