Bee Season Scott McGehee and David Siegel

Film synopses on the back of DVD cases are most often a helpful marketing tool to motivate a potential viewer into buying or renting that film. Unfortunately, the age-old phrase "never judge a film by its DVD cover” strongly applies to Bee Season. Appearing to the naïve eye as a moving story about a smart kid who excels in spelling bees and becomes the obsessive project of a demanding father, this film takes that thought and scrambles it with pseudo-intellectual bullshit and inane, unworldly special effects that feel as if Hollywood is taking an ill-advised stab at the avant-garde. Based on Myra Goldberg’s novel, Bee Season feels like screenwriter Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal (Jake and Maggie’s mom) chose to adapt only random chunks of the book, as crucial gaps pop up everywhere, leaving way too many questions unanswered. Eliza Naumann (Flora Cross) is a sixth grade genius who one day enters a spelling bee and wins. Her victory, along with her ability to visualise the letters in her head, attracts the attention of her domineering father (Richard Gere), a college professor trained in religion and spirituality. Meanwhile, son Aaron (Max Minghella) and wife/mother Miriam (Juliet Binoche) enter the fold as problematic characters for Gere’s Saul, whose irrational ways are tearing the family apart. The exploration of the family dynamic is certainly a different one, but largely because we’re left in the dark most of the time. Unlike Eliza, Bee Season cannot spell out what it’s trying to say. For example, there is a past inner tension between Saul and Aaron that is referenced but never explained. Also, how has Miriam been leading a double life all these years without anyone caring to notice? And what’s the story behind those bizarre dreams she’s having? The directors’ commentary should shed much needed light but the way McGehee and Siegel utter their monotonous words the pay off is hardly worth the bother. And a "making of” called the "Essence of Bee Season” does even less. Plus: deleted scenes, featurette. (Fox)