Following up on my post about the script for Brokeback Mountain, the ‘Script Vs Film’ heading seemed to suggest a regular strand for the blog so here’s the next session, a look at the script for Bee Season written by Naomi Foner (mum to Maggie & Jake Gyllenhaal and writer of Running on Empty, amongst others). An intelligent script and another character-driven story.
Here’s my logline: “A shy young girl wins the approval of her academic father when she reveals a talent for spelling bees but ironically, the family dynamic begins to fall apart because of the shift of focus and routine.”
And here are extracts of my evaluation. It seems I couldn’t critique this without mentioning key aspects of character and plot, so there are SPOILERS AHEAD and probably best avoided if you are planning to go see.
“…This has all the hallmarks of a discerning book adaptation yet one that doesn’t fully translate effectively to the big screen. It’s very much a character drama, where we see the effects and consequences of small choices within a family dynamic.
…This kind of concept and character study probably makes for absorbing and rewarding reading [in book form], hence its transition from book to screenplay. But while the screenplay does a great job of presenting the characters and developing their story, the plot doesn’t really suck you in with an appropriate pace or dramatic edge.
…Despite one or two visual flourishes – usually involving Eliza’s gift to visualise the words she has to spell – the film essentially works as a kitchen sink drama, an Ordinary People type story where we get to the heart of suburban family frustrations.
…However, the kitchen sink drama is treated at a steady and moderate level, and the film doesn’t raise the stakes or increase the pace to a satisfying degree.
…The script struggles a little here to give the supporting characters, and the reader, the relevant backstory and motivation regarding their personas. Although it is Eliza’s story, the narrative switches its point-of-view twice (to Miriam and to Aaron) to highlight their emotional reasons why they’re in the state they’re in.
…Eliza’s talent for spelling bees is thankfully not treated in a conventional or familiar manner and instead, the script ties in her gift with her father’s obsession with Jewish mysticism. This gives the plot an added hook and it gets very interesting when Eliza achieves a higher spiritual awareness through her spelling bee conquests.
…Unlike last year’s “Upside of Anger”, this lacks a suitable pace and much needed comic touches to lift the story’s appeal and potential. It’s an interesting film with a discerning story to tell but the characters and situation don’t quite do enough to earn a suitable recommendation.”
But what do I know? It’s got Juliette Binoche and Richard Gere. It’s directed by the guys who did The Deep End. The reviews have been mixed - Jonathan Ross in particular taking a scathing dislike - but it just goes to show: “scripts are supposed to be read, films are meant to be seen.” Not much help for us writers, we have to write the goddamn scripts in the first place, but it’s only once on celluloid can the true heart and form of our story be fully praised or loathed.