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|Festivale Spring 1997|
The Bee's Knees
Florida's the best American setting for crime novels and movies in which crime plays a part.
From John D. MacDonald's novels through to Carl Hiaasen's, the combination of southern rural, big city melting pot, money, coral reefs and hot, humid 'gator-infested cypress swamps and tupelo marshes works magic on the old formulas of greed and sudden violence.
Ulee (Ulysses) Jackson (Fonda) is an ageing beekeeper, raising his two granddaughters, Penny and Casey as best he can. He's a fiercely independent man, sole survivor of his unit in Vietnam and widower. His son Jimmy (Wood) is in gaol after an armed robbery and his daughter-in-law Helen is on the skids, bombed out in Rhohypnol. Ulee gets a call from Jimmy saying that Helen's in Orlando in the dubious care of his two partners in crime and asking that Ulee take her home. But the two have ulterior motives which threaten both Ulee and his family.
Left: Peter Fonda as Ulee
As the character names suggest, Ulee's on an odyssey of his own. For the first time since the death of his wife six years before, he has to confront the world outside his town, his grandchildren and his bees. Fonda's performance is brilliant. Much of it is in the eyes, the stance and the small gestures.
When his neighbour Connie Hope (Patricia Richardson from Home Improvements getting herself nicely out of the sitcom rut) helps out with Helen's drug withdrawal, he offers her tea and automatically gets out a good china cup and saucer instead of the mug he drinks from. For an actor born into a Hollywood family, Fonda gives a refreshingly genuine performance.
This film, like Nunez's previous A Flash of Green (based on a John D. MacDonald novel) is slow paced and caring of its characters. A beekeeper must be a calm, methodical person. Bees smell excitement or fear. Following that quality of the lead character, Ulee's Gold has a very unHollywood approach which is refreshing after the 'guns solve all problems' paradigm of too many American films. It also has a gentleness that's rare in movies from that country, where too often cute substitutes for gentle.
see also: Ali's review
|Just the facts:
Title: Ulee's Gold
|The Players: Peter Fonda, Patricia Richardson, Tom Wood and Christine Dunford|
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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