Published on June 5th, 2006 | by The Beige Baron


Bee Season

I should have trusted my instinctual hatred of Richard Gere and not allowed myself to rent this movie. He’s managed to ruin every film he’s ever been cast in with his slint-eyed, smarmy smugness, and Bee Season (a movie adapted from the novel by Myla Goldberg) is no exception.

However, even sans Gere, this movie would still suck arse. Another in a long line of American stories of upper middle-class family breakdown, Bee Season stands head and shoulders over its companions in the genre by trying so hard to be profoundly meaningful while delivering nothing more than a ‘glorified informercial for Kabbalism’, as one critic observed. Thanks in no small measure to Gere’s paper-thin acting, the movie trails off from its reasonable opening premise of overly-ambitious, pushy parents isolating their children with their unrealistic expectations, into a vague, substanceless waiting room of implausibilities and unintentional religious comedy.

Gere plays Saul, a Jewish university professor and father to Aaron (Max Minghella) and Eliza (Flora Cross, a young lady with the most spectacular bum chin in the history of American bowl-cut movie brats). The House of Saul is a repellent portrait of the progressive family unit, floating comfortably, as it invariably does, near the apex of the A-B demographic: dad is a high-flying professor, mum a scientist, and everybody treats each other like the wonderfully independent and sensitive individuals they are. Truly sickening stuff.

All is not well, though. Saul’s obsession with his son’s success with the cello blinds him to his wife’s deteriorating emotional state, and to his daughter’s need for attention. All this changes when lil’ bum-chin Eliza wins a spelling bee. Saul drops Aaron entirely to focus on forcing Eliza to be the best speller in the country, so Aaron goes off in a huff to join the hare krishnas, the wife’s kleptomania goes into overdrive, and Saul gets it into his head that Eliza can communicate with God thanks to her ability to ‘see’ words physically manifest themselves in her surroundings.

Which gives the special effects department something to do to justify their salaries, if nothing else.

Richard insisted on doing his own stunts, no matter how great the risk to his dignity.

Richard insisted on doing his own stunts, no matter how great the risk to his dignity.

It’s at this point the movie bids plausibility farewell and goes to frolic in the land of elves and pixies. That the whole family could be plunged into total breakdown so quickly defies belief, and as a consequence, any empathy you feel for this doleful collection of detached, humourless sad-sacks evaporates entirely. In fact, this supposed profound tragedy had the reverse effect on me. I wanted to see these bastards end up on the street.

The only humour to be gleaned from this miserable film was watching Gere pretend to play the violin in his book-lined study, ramrod straight back and lips pursed to within an inch of their lives.

So bored and irritated was I by the half-way mark, I began wishing Aaron’s hare krishna cult would turn violent and launch a series of physical reprisals against Saul, just to relieve the monotony. Letting the tyres of his Volvo station wagon down, tipping vegan food into his petrol tank, tousingly his perfectly coiffed hair, etcetera.

Despite my prayers, Eliza did not die during one of her ‘seizures’ when talking with God via her personal hotline, although to be fair, the wife did end up being caught flogging shit from people’s houses and got locked up in an insane asylum.

But apart from this moment of action, there was nothing at all to breath life into this overly long, pretentious, gloomy film. A few references from the Jewish bible or Kabbalah or whatever were not enough to paper over the yawning gaps in logic and reason, no matter how well they shot and edited the fervent flicking-through-the-text-for-an-answer scenes from 500 different camera angles.

Even if I had eaten three bored pills and was locked in a bored room on top of Mount Bored in the most boring month of the year would I be bored enough to watch this bland offering again.

And that’s officially the last chance Gerbil Boy Gere gets from me.

One star (for the violin scene).

— The Beige Baron

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Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.

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