BEE SEASON (Scott McGehee, David Siegel). 104 minutes. Opens Friday (November 11). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NN
We can all understand why authors allow their work to be made into movies: big stars, red-carpet openings and the chance to see their words come alive on the big screen. Unfortunately, as John Irving and others have concluded, sometimes it's better to keep your baby to yourself. Such is the case with Myla Goldberg 's beautiful, spiritual novel Bee Season . As complex and somewhat mystifying as the book was -- the ending left many a reader frustrated and confused -- the film is jarringly even more so. It barely fleshes out the two main stories: the collapsing marriage of rabbinical scholar Saul ( Richard Gere ) and Miriam ( Juliette Binoche ) and the true importance of their 11-year-old daughter Eliza's (brilliant newcomer Flora Cross ) need to win spelling bees.
Screenwriter Naomi Foner deserves credit for her earnest attempt to cover all the novel's important elements: ancient Jewish mysticism, toy kaleidoscopes, the son's fascination with Hari Krishna and Miriam's secret dangerous pastime. Unfortunately, co-directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel have no idea how to blend all these ideas.
If a movie is good, you don't have to know the book to appreciate all the nuances. Here, it's mandatory reading to make sense of the film.
Spellbound you won't be.