Ulee's Gold (1997) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Ulee is called one day by his incarcerated son, Jimmy, asking for a favor. Jimmy will repay his debts if they save his wife, Helen, from hoodlums. Ulee must now risk his and his family's lives to save Helen.

  • Vietnam War veteran Ulee Jackson comes from a long line of Florida beekeepers. He believes that his and his family's lives are nobody's business but their own. He has been retreating from life ever since the death of his childhood sweetheart wife, Penelope, six years ago. He now lives with his two granddaughters, teenaged Casey and adolescent Penny, as their father/Ulee's son, Jimmy, is in prison for robbery, and their mother/Jimmy's deadbeat wife, Helen, abandoned the girls, Helen's current whereabouts unknown. Despite factors killing off bees worldwide, Ulee has placed most of his energies into his beekeeping business, as bees are still easier to manage than his family. In prison, Jimmy receives news via telephone call from his two shifty friends, Eddie Flowers and Ferris Dooley, that they know where Helen is, she who is possibly in trouble. Jimmy asks Ulee to retrieve her from Eddie and Ferris in Orlando. Upon his arrival in Orlando, Ulee learns that Eddie and Ferris, who do have a drugged out Helen, manufactured Ulee's retrieval of Helen so that he could be a face-to-face messenger to Jimmy. Eddie and Ferris were Jimmy's two associates in the robbery that put Jimmy behind bars, Jimmy who never ratted them out. Eddie and Ferris learned from Helen in her fragile state that Jimmy managed to steal an extra $100,000 in the robbery, and they now want that money, with Ulee, Casey and Penny's safety at ransom. Beyond finding out from Jimmy about the money, Ulee, like everything else in his life, decides to deal with this issue solely on his own. Regardless, he may get some unrequested help from a few people in dealing with his collective life issues, including local sheriff, Bill Floyd, with who Ulee has been on the outs since Jimmy's imprisonment, and nurse Connie Hope, who is new to the area as Ulee's tenant in the house he owns across the street from his own.

  • A reclusive beekeeper slowly pulls his dysfunctional family back together, but not without having to fight his son's previous dastardly cohorts.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Ulee Jackson (Peter Fonda) is a widowed Florida beekeeper whose son Jimmy (Tom Wood) is in prison following a botched robbery. Jimmy's wife Helen (Christine Dunford) has abandoned their two daughters and is living somewhere in Orlando. Ulee's stubborn independence prevents him from asking for help, and as the movie begins he has his hands full running his business and acting as surrogate parent to his granddaughters Casey and Penny. Casey (Jessica Biel) is a rebellious teenager and Penny (Vanessa Zima) is a timid 10-year-old who seems confused by her parents' absence and the tension at home.

    When Ulee visits Jimmy in prison, Jimmy tells him that Helen has turned up at the Orlando home of two low-lifes named Ferris and Eddie. They were Jimmy's accomplices in the bank robbery, but were never caught. Now they say Helen is sick, and Jimmy asks Ulee to bring her home.

    Ulee goes to Orlando to pick up Helen, but it turns out what Ferris and Eddie really want is the bank money that Jimmy hid after the robbery. Ulee agrees to ask Jimmy about it, and then takes Helen home. Helen's "illness" is actually drug addiction, and while she is almost comatose on the way home, she becomes violent and belligerent as she wakes up near the house. Ulee's tenant and neighbor, a divorced nurse named Connie Hope (Patricia Richardson), is brought into the home by a frightened Penny, and over the next few days she helps Helen through her drug withdrawal.

    Meanwhile Ulee learns that Jimmy hid the bank money in one of his beeyards. He tells Ferris and Eddie he'll bring the money to Orlando in a few days, but they decide they can't wait and take Helen and the girls hostage in Ulee's home. They then force Ulee at gunpoint to take them to the beeyard, where he shows them the hiding place. As they are recovering the money, Ulee kicks the gun into the swamp. The angry men ride with Ulee back into town, then stab him in the parking lot when they arrive. As Ulee lies bleeding on the ground, Ferris and Eddie drive off but are pulled over almost immediately by the sheriff (who was probably tipped off by Connie).

    The movie ends with a newly hopeful Jackson household. Helen has stepped back into her role as a mother, and Jimmy expects to be paroled soon. Ulee is happy to return to his bees, but has mixed feelings about giving up some of his responsibilities. ("I feel like an old drone. They don't need me now.") As he recovers from his knife wound he begins work on expanding his business to accommodate Jimmy's eventual return, and seems to finally be taking a romantic interest in Connie.

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