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HTF REVIEW: Bee Season (1 Viewer)

Michael Osadciw

Screenwriter
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Jun 24, 2003
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Real Name
Michael Osadciw


BEE SEASON


Studio: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight)
Film Year: 2005
Film Length: 104 minutes
Genre: Drama

Aspect Ratio:

SIDE B: 2.35:1 enhanced widescreen
SIDE A: 1.33:1 fullscreen

Colour/B&W: Colour

Audio:[*] English 5.1 Surround
[*] Spanish 2.0 Stereo

Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Film Rating:







Release Date: April 4, 2006.


Film Rating: :star: :star:
htf_images_smilies_half.gif
/ :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:

Richard Gere (Saul Naumann), Juliette Binoche (Miriam Naumann), Kate Bosworth (Chali), Max Minghella (Aaron Naumann), Flora Cross (Eliza Naumann)

Novel by: Myla Goldberg
Screenplay by: Naomi Foner
Directed by: Scott McGehee & David Siegel


Words may define us, but it’s love that connects us.



What a strange little movie this is; Bee Season begins like any other family-themed film setting the characters and the plot. The overall story is about the father, Saul, a man who is driven by education and is absolutely obsessed with training his daughter Eliza for the National Spelling Bee. Seems like your every day film, doesn’t it?

As we watch the movie unfold, we find various subplots come out of the woodwork because of the controlling nature of the father. In all honesty, the movie lost me at many moments during the first 45 minutes I eventually found it difficult to pay attention. The film shifts away from Eliza graduating through spelling bees and begins to focus on these few subplots; one being of Saul’s wife Miriam whose proving to find it difficult living in the household where Saul has absolute 100% control over every aspect of the house – the cooking, the kids, etc. Binoche’s role as Miriam is not much more than moments of discomfort and a few bits of dialogue. She does in every way look uncomfortable to be on screen as if it was her first time in front of the slate. While her character in the film is supposed to feel like she has little role in her own household as well as being tortured by her own past, Binoche’s body language is very awkward in this film and it portrays far more than that, almost suggesting her own personal emotions. Regardless, the character of Miriam has her own set of problems that begin to show almost part way through the film and leads to a rather bizarre outcome.

Another subplot is about the distance between father and son. The father has heavy Jewish influence on the family with the texts, letters, and language. Despite having all of these resources at his disposal, the son is missing a connection in his life that makes him want a sense of belonging. He decides to revolt against his own religion by reading about others. Coincidently, he is invited to a Buddhist temple in the city by a girl he meets. He is drawn in by her, possibly from her beauty and/or to find that something he needs to fulfill his life. Do you think Saul is happy to see his Jewish son participate in and convert to Buddhism? What results is a confrontation between father and son that is all too real. (It’s rather ironical to know that Gere himself is a Buddhist).

It’s because of all of this that wide-eyed Eliza is interested in the spelling bee. She sees her family in disarray and probably feels helpless in repairing it. If she is to do well in something and get the attention of her father, the spelling bee seems to be the only solution for her.

It’s quite possible that I didn’t understand the religious themes in the film. A lot of it seemed very foreign to me thus I was lost at many moments. The dialogue sort of whizzed over my head. At least in terms of story telling, all of these subplots do come together at the end of the film with Eliza using her “power” to find letters to spell words. Yeah…I didn’t quite get it either…but apparently if one reaches a certain understanding of letters they will unlock the secrets of the universe and even put the body into an orgasmic-like state. Why? Don’t ask me. Read the original novel. Anyways, at the end of the film the focus once again turns to Eliza and her spelling bee but it makes one think throughout the film – “what kind of trip did I just go on to get to this point?”


VIDEO QUALITY :star: :star: :star: :star: / :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:

A warm image is consistent in interior shots throughout the film. Interiors tend to be a little dim and outdoor scenes have wonderful contrast. The picture is pleasing with only minor amounts of compression noise and film grain. The film is softer than some other titles but still hold wonderful amounts of detail in both photographed images and computer imagery. Edge enhancement is not a problem. This 2.35:1 DVD looks very nice.

(The film's aspect ratio changed ever so slightly after the opening credits. The picture hight is reduced by a fractional amount.)

A cropped 1.33:1 pan and scan version appears on side A of the disc.


AUDIO QUALITY :star: :star: :star: / :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:

This is mostly a talkie film with dialogue coming from the center channel. Some sound effects and music come from the other four main channels. The soundtrack isn’t that active. Still, everything does come through cleanly and there is no noise around dialogue or background hiss. The sound is not sibilant or aggressive at loud volumes either making it pleasing to listen to. LFE is inactive; I can’t remember a moment that it actually had anything come from it even though the channel is encoded.


TACTILE FUN!! ZERO / :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:
TRANSDUCER ON
/OFF?: OFF

Hooked up to LFE only, the Clark Synthesis TST-429 tactile transducer did not do anything for this film because there were no sounds coming from the LFE channel. If bass were summed from left, right, and center channels then it would have made some vibrations but this didn’t seem like the film for that anyways (and I don’t submit to bass management).


SPECIAL FEATURES :star: :star: / :star: :star: :star: :star: :star:

There is a nice set of features spread out over the two sides of this double-sided single-layered disc. You can hear two commentary tracks; directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel are featured on one and the other features producer Albert Berger and screenwriter Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal. I didn’t listen to these extensively, if I did, it’s quite possible I would have understood the film a bit more (even though I shouldn’t rely on it to understand it).

Six deleted scenes with optional commentary run about 10 minutes. The scenes are in stereo and not widescreen enhanced (and have running time code). These scenes in my opinion don’t do much to enhance the film, although I can say they were not bad and it wouldn’t have harmed the film to leave them in either (except for the attempt at lovemaking scene). There is also a montage of outtakes in a 4-minute Cutting Room Floor featurette.

There are two other making-of featurettes titled Making of Bee Season as well as The Essence of Bee Season. Combined they total to about 30 minutes.

Don’t forget to look at the theatrical trailer too.


IN THE END...

What initially seems like a family film about an 11-year old girl and a spelling bee based on all of the press about the film, I wouldn’t recommend this title for children. There are exchanges intense language and adult themes that would be well beyond the comprehension of children. This is a film for adults but I really can’t say who the target audience is. If you aren’t afraid to dive into the mystic world of letters and love and are willing to take some time and figure it all out, Bee Season may be a good choice.

Michael Osadciw
March 25, 2006.
 

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