Myla Goldberg's Bee Season is one of my all-time favorite novels (her upcoming Wickett's Remedy would have been on my most-anticipated list a few weeks ago were it not scandalously forgotten). I've been nervous about the film adaptation for a while (Richard Gere as Saul? Juliette Binoche as Miriam? They're both about as Jewish as Madonna). Now that the trailer has come along, I can see that nervousness was the wrong reaction--I should have just written the whole film off as soon as I heard about it.
Contrary to what you might assume from watching the trailer, Bee Season isn't a heartwarming drama about a damaged family coming together. It is a heartbreaking drama about a damaged family falling to pieces. More importantly, it's a book about the search for God in everyday life, and about the different ways in which people can approach that search--arrogance, obsession, spite, humility.
The six minute featurette on the same site only serves to demonstrate how far the writers have deviated from their source material. In the book, Saul isn't a well-meaning control freak; he's an arrogant prick who uses his children's accomplishments to dull the pain of his own failed ambitions. Similarly, although Miriam is an obsessive-compulsive kleptomaniac, in the book she doesn't want to get better--she believes that her actions are helping to perfect the world. The entire thrust of the film seems to be that the Naumanns' problems can be solved, with Eliza's ascent to the National Spelling Bee Championship as the catalyst, whereas the book unequivocally states that the Naumanns are beyond repair--even when one member of the family achieves spiritual enlightenment. It's a complete reversal of the book's central theme.
Why do the people who write film adaptations do this? Pride and Prejudice isn't a romantic comedy. Moll Flanders and Vanity Fair aren't stories about damaged young women looking for love in all the wrong places. The English Patient isn't a love story. Why adapt the novel if you're going to ignore the very things that make it what it is?