Bee Season

Scott McGehee and David Siegel are the filmmaking team who made Deep End, the psychological thriller that was one of the best American movies of 2001. Their new film Bee Season, adapted from Myla Goldberg’s esteemed novel, is a kind of muted psychodrama with strong, but not entirely, realized inclinations toward the mystical.

The story revolves around an intensely spiritual family of four, and much of the drama is set in motion when the youngest child, the fifth-grader Eliza, suddenly begins winning spelling bee championships. Her father (Richard Gere), a Berkeley professor of Jewish theology, sees mystical implications in her gift with words, and begins personally coaching her in spelling and Kabalah alike. While teenaged son Aaron (Max Minghella), already serious about music and religion, begins to question his father’s ways and much else, the scientist-wife Miriam (Juliette Binoche) veers toward increasingly mysterious and unhinged behavior.

Gere is credible with the father as passive-aggressive tyrant, and little Flora Cross is hauntingly innocent and intense as Eliza. But apart from the modest special effects pertaining to the inspired little girl, the production as a whole whiffs on the story’s spiritual elements—which leaves its complex final scene in an inexplicably schizoid, emotional limbo.