(2005)3Derek ArmstrongAnyone who saw Richard Gere and moppet co-star Flora Cross hugging blissfully on the poster may have gotten quite the wrong impression what Bee Season is about. Not at all a fictionalized version of the cheery documentary Spellbound, Bee Season is actually an unwieldy opus of family dysfunction, deep religious yearning, and kleptomania, full of kaleidoscopes, wind chimes and Hare Krishnas. If this sounds just weird enough to be great, it isn't. In fact, the film is pretty boring, which makes it hard to even characterize it as ambitious. But it's easy to see why the deeply spiritual Gere, playing a Kabbalist religious studies professor, was attracted to the material, even though Buddhism isn't one of the many religious persuasions the film tackles. In fact, Bee Season tries to explore quite an interesting notion: that a sublime understanding of letters and their combinations is a means of speaking directly to God. But in her first script in ten years, Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal (Jake and Maggie's mother) doesn't go about this task with much focus -- she tends to get distracted on subplots and to disorient the story's perspective, so it's rarely clear who the main character is supposed to be. The character arc for the mother, played by Juliette Binoche, is especially troubling, as the actress must express this non-specific emotional trauma for an eternity before the script offers an unconvincing half-explanation. Although believable dysfunctions are eventually revealed, the viewer spends too long thinking the script is poking artificial holes in the family's general functionality, just to add dramatic weight to a story about a good speller. Even the film's digital attempts at visualizing her gift -- flowers encircling her head as she spells "dandelion," for example -- seem shoehorned in, another uncomfortable fit in a confused concept.