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Living in Oakland, California, the Naumanns are outwardly a loving, supportive family. Husband and father Saul Naumann is a Religious Studies professor, and looks to his religious training in Judaism as tenets for his family to live. He has high expectations for all members of his family. His mid-teen son, Aaron Naumann, idolizes his father, and does whatever he can to please him. His pre-teen daughter, Eliza Naumann, often feels the neglected child. So when Saul eventually learns that Eliza is participating and excelling in spelling bees, she becomes the focus of his life as he believes that letters in the form of words will lead to answers to the universe. That change in focus to Eliza makes Aaron now feel the neglected one, he who strikes out quietly in his own way with the help of Chali, a young woman he meets. But the person who has felt the most pressure within Saul's way of life is his wife, Miriam Naumann, a microbiologist. She converted from Catholicism to Judaism when she ... Written by
Jonathan Murphy auditioned for the part of Aaron Naumann. See more »
The license plates on the family Volvo are different on the front and back. The front license plate starts with a "4", the rear license plate starts with a "5". See more »
National Spelling Bee Pronouncer:
Number 14. Eliza Naumann, Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California. "Oppidan".
My father told me once that words and letters hold all the secrets of the universe. That in there shapes and sounds, I could find everything and see beyond myself, to something special. Perfect. My father told me once that I could reach the ear of God.
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I know most people don't give this movie a very good review and that's unfortunate. It is a very deep movie and the viewer is made to think. It's not the kind of movie where everything falls into place and everything ends up happily ever after. If that is the kind of movie you like then this one is not for you. If you like a movie that is deep and has a very serious story line then this is the one.
I will try to put this in as simple terms possible; the story is mostly based around Saul Naumann, the father (Richard Gere) and his daughter Eliza (Flora Cross) both superbly acted by the way. Saul is a professor on the Jewish Religion and he very much wants to get closer to God but is unable to. Saul is a very domineering husband and father, very self-centered, so is unable to see the problems that are dividing the family, or maybe he sees it and doesn't want to admit it.
When his daughter begins to win at spelling bees he thinks that somehow Eliza is linked with God and that is how she sees the word and can spell it correctly. He begins teaching her like she was one of his students by using the thesis he wrote to become a professor. In this thesis it lays out the plan to get closer to God, he tried it for himself but couldn't, so he decides to try it on his daughter.
Saul's wife Miriam (Juliette Binoche) has many problems stemming back from the time her parents were killed in an auto accident when she was a young girl. I'm not going to go into specifics here but if you pay close attention to the scene where he is talking to his class you will understand how this is linked to Miriam's problem and how she has decided to solve it. Also pay attention to the scenes where I'm assuming they were fist married (flash backs) and he is explaining to Miriam the same thing he has been talking about with his class in that scene I mentioned. Because Saul is so domineering and self-centered he doesn't realize that she even has a problem until it all explodes and he finally becomes aware of what she is doing. Miriam tries to explain to Saul why she did what she did and if you listen closely to what she says you will understand.
The son Aaron (Max Minghella) has a good relationship with his father and is shown a lot of attention by him until Saul begins to spend more and more time with Eliza. I think Aaron may be a little jealous of Eliza because she is now getting all the attention but I don't think that is his real problem. I think he also wants to get closer to God and is not sure how so begins exploring other avenues other religions. He becomes involved with another religion and feels this may be what he has been looking for. When Saul finds this out all hell breaks loose and he finally realizes that the whole family has many problems.
Meanwhile Eliza thinks she is the reason for all that is happened and tries to converse with God to correct it. By this time Saul is convinced that God is interacting with Eliza when they go to the final spelling bee, The Nationals.
This is just a very basic outline of the movie, of course I have left out a lot of the movie because I don't want to give too much away and you should see this for yourself and come to your own conclusions. Give this movie a chance and I think you will like it.
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