I've now encountered enough bee metaphors to last me a lifetime.
Ulysses Jackson (Peter Fonda) is a beekeeper who works in the Tupelo marshes of the Florida Panhandle. At one point in the movie his granddaughter, Penny (Vanessa Zima), asks him if he's afraid of getting stung. Ulee responds that, no, he's not afraid, and that the trick is to stay calm because bees can sense fear.
Had Ulee applied some other approach to his life -- like beating his grandchildren with a post -- perhaps this movie would have seemed interesting. Instead, Ulee does the same thing with his personal life that he does with the bees: He remains calm. Thus, by extension, the audience stays calm. Real calm.
This despite the fact that Ulee's son, Jimmy (Tom Wood), is in jail, his daughter-in-law, Helen (Christine Dunford), is strung out in Orlando, and two of Jimmy's associates have threatened to cause real trouble if they're not given the money that Jimmy has hidden away. Obviously, if director Victor ("Ruby in Paradise") Nunez had focused singularly on the beekeeping aspect of this story, audiences would have segued from "calm" to "coma," so he's thrown in an arbitrary subplot to spice things up. The distractions also allow Ulee a chance to put his house in order and rediscover his zest for living.
Since this film likes metaphors, here's one: "Ulee's Gold" is a lot like honey: It tastes sweet in small doses, but eating it for two straight hours makes you feel sick.
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