Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Richard Gere……….Saul Naumann
Juliette Binoche……….Miriam Naumann
Flora Cross……….Eliza Naumann
Max Minghella……….Aaron Naumann
In Hollywood, it seems, there’s a newfound love for Kabbalah amongst its celebrity inhabitants. From Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher to Madonna, all sorts of people are getting into Jewish Mysticism. Words and letters, it seems, are becoming a much more important part of the fun folks from L.A. And with this in mind Bee Season follows a famiy drama immersed in all sorts of mystical story-telling admist a rather unique upper middle class Jewish family from California.
The Naumann family seems to have everything going for it on the exterior: father Saul (Richard Gere) is a respected professor of religious studies at Cal-Berkeley and mother Miriam (Juliette Binoche) has a succesful career as a scientist. Their son Aaron is the sparkle of his father’s eye, as he’s a great musician who commands his attention. Daughter Eliza (Flora Cross) is rarely noticed by her father until she wins her school’s spelling bee. As Saul devotes more time to his daughter and her continued success as a speller, his fascination with Kabbalah coupled with Eliza’s apparent mystical abilities lead to his further developing of her abilities to spell while his family falls apart around him. Miriam’s sanity seems to be in short supply while Aaron’s lack of satisfaction with Judaism and exploration of other faiths, including a pretty blonde Hare Krishna follower named Chali (Kate Bosworth) whose faith makes more sense to him than his father’s.
What’s noticeably lacking is the communication between them; when Eliza wins her first spelling contest she doesn’t tell her father. She slips a note under his door. Anything of note when they communicate with one another isn’t really said, as the family has a house of cards as its foundation. As the film progresses and the family collapses, it’s sort of interesting to see the dynamic change as the characters truly develop in four different ways.
As a film, though, it feels more like the beginning of a great masterpiece than a complete movie. There’s so much about the film and about the characters that really isn’t explored; the dynamics of the relationships are explored but aren’t fully developed. It’s an unsatisfactory finish as there’s more to be said and is left off the table.
What is left, though, are some really great acting. Gere, out of his usual quagmire of romantic comedies, shows he has a lot of speed on his fastball remaining. Cross is able to keep pace with him, as they have a definite father-daughter chemistry that feels natural. There’s a lot about Jewish mysticism as well that proves to be thought-provoking as well; Gere isn’t just repeating lines, he actually knows what he’s talking about. It’s refreshing to see someone playing an intellectual and can do the part just as well.