In Maya Goldberg’s 2000 bestseller Bee Season, the adolescent son of Saul and Miriam Naumann disses his rabbinical ambitions and turns to Hari Krishna shortly after meeting a slightly older man named Chali. Aaron (Max Minghella) profoundly starves for a self-defined spiritual identity but Deep End directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel reduce the boy’s crisis to an adolescent whim. Given Aaron’s confused identity in the novel, it’s surprising McGehee and Siegel resist the temptation of more explicitly queering the boy’s experience, but now that Chali is a girl—and played by Kate Bosworth no less—Aaron’s decision to leave his Jewish faith behind reeks of horned-up posturing. But that’s not all the directors flatten. There’s no sense of Saul’s (Richard Gere) study as a holy place or a credible lead-up to justify why Eliza (Flora Cross) feels ignored by the man, whose fanaticism has been seriously neutered. The man’s faith is supposed to be threatening to his son, but Gere and the filmmakers make it seem innocuous, so when Saul finally pays attention to Eliza and stops jamming with his son in order to incorporate his Jewish faith into the girl’s spelling bee training, Aaron’s spiritual journey doesn’t even resonate as a reaction to his father’s oppressive spiritual stance—he’s just jealous that his sister has taken over his place in his father’s favorite room. McGehee and Siegel aren’t seriously devoted to exploring the spiritual and emotional turmoil that breaks the Naumann family apart or conveying a realistic sense of cause and effect. The vibrant nymphomaniac sex between Saul and his kleptomaniac wife Miriam (a wonderful but shortchanged Juliette Binoche, essentially reincarnating her breakout Blue performance) is squelched and the mysteries of the novel—the hallucinations inside Eliza’s head during spelling bee competitions and the visions the girl sees through Miriam’s kaleidoscope—have been neatly and bloodlessly conflated and tricked-out for the screen. In this way, Bee Season‘s mysticism casts an incredibly cold, literal-minded spell.
- DVD | Soundtrack | Book
- Fox Searchlight Pictures
- 104 min
- Scott McGehee, David Siegel
- Naomi Foner
- Richard Gere, Juliette Binoche, Flora Cross, Max Minghella, Kate Bosworth
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