A wife and mother begins a downward emotional spiral, as her husband avoids their collapsing marriage by immersing himself in his 11 year-old daughter's quest to become a spelling bee champion.


Myla Goldberg (novel), Naomi Foner (screenplay) (as Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal)
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Gere ... Saul
Juliette Binoche ... Miriam
Flora Cross ... Eliza
Max Minghella ... Aaron
Kate Bosworth ... Chali
Corey Fischer ... National Spelling Bee Pronouncer
Sam Zuckerman Sam Zuckerman ... National Spelling Bee Judge
Joan Mankin Joan Mankin ... Ms. Bergermeyer
Piers Mackenzie Piers Mackenzie ... Dr. Morris
Lorri Holt Lorri Holt ... Ms. Rai
Brian Leonard Brian Leonard ... Mr. Julien
Jamal Thornes Jamal Thornes ... Wiseacre Boy's Mate
Kathy McGraw ... Regional Bee Pronouncer
John Evans John Evans ... Regional Bee Judge
Alisha Mullally ... Young Miriam


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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Family isn't just about talking. It's about understanding. See more »


Drama | Family

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, a scene of sensuality and brief strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Dakota Fanning was originally going to play Eliza, but directors thought that Flora Cross looked like Juliette Binoche and selected Cross instead. 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 »


[first lines]
National Spelling Bee Pronouncer: Number 14. Eliza Naumann, Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California. "Oppidan".
Eliza: "Oppidan".
Eliza: [narrating] 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.
See more »


Featured in At the Movies: Episode #2.41 (2005) See more »


Partita in B Minor BWV 1002 Sarabande
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
Arranged by Peter Nashel and Patrick Zimmerli
Performed by Tim Fain and Inbal Segev
See more »

User Reviews

A movie untrue to its novel
24 May 2007 | by vietboi612See all my reviews

It's true.. the book is always better than the movie. I thought that this movie was very disappointing to watch after having reading the book.

The movie moves too fast, though I can understand because of time limit, to actually give the viewers the concepts that the book gives. A lot of details and events are cut from the book that is important to the story as a whole. The script seems undeveloped, and the actors/actresses carried out their character with mediocre performances.

Saul (Richard Gere) is somewhat true to his character. The only thing he is obsessed with is to enable Eliza to communicate with God. He does this in a way that is the most true to novel.

Aaron's (Max Minghella) appearance is very different from that described in the book. He is described as a pale and scrawny young man, who is incapable of getting dates and is a social outcast. His search for a new religion seems unreasonable and spontaneous in the movie, and I thought it didn't really capture his true character.

Miriam's (Julliete) kleptomania is weird in both the book and the movie. Her actions in the book seems more reasonable when I knew her purposes for doing it. In the movie I thought it was a very random thing for her to do.

Eliza (Flora Cross) is a young actress, and is limited to what she can do. Her acting is very mediocre at best, and does not convince me of Eliza that is in the novel.

Chali, which I am surprised to see, have been transformed from a middle-aged man into a young blond girl. I can understand why they did that, but that just adds to the falseness of Aaron's character.

Overall I think the movie is an average depiction of Bee Season. I can't say that they did a nice job of sticking to the plot. It's almost impossible to transform a novel into a movie with everything in the book.

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USA | Germany


English | Hebrew

Release Date:

23 November 2005 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bee Season See more »


Box Office


$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$120,544, 13 November 2005

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

SDDS | Dolby Digital | DTS



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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