Bee Season 2005 An adaptation of the novel by Myla Goldberg. Directed by Scott McGehee/David Siegel. Saul Naumann (Richard Gere) is a Religious Studies professor at UC Berkeley who struggles to get closer to God. He studies tikkunolam or “repairing the world” and “reuniting its shards.” Wife Miriam (Juliette Binoche) converted when they married. Son Aaron (Max Minghella) is being raised in the faith. It’s young daughter Eliza (Flora Cross – terrific), who has natural Kabbalistic talent however, something the family discovers as she wins spelling bees by seeing the words form.
Saul’s preoccupation becomes obsession. With training, Eliza goes somewhere he can’t. He neglects both Miriam, who retreats into a secret life created by childhood trauma, and Aaron who’s searching for faith in his own fashion. The family unravels, and then…Terrific piece. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Time Out of Mind 2014 Directed by Oren Moverman. Alan Scherstuhl of The Village Voice wrote the film is “an experiment in empathy, an examination of bureaucracy and street life … and a movie that many will find a tough sit.” Clearly an expression of its star’s humanistic politics, the piece is horrifying in its depiction of bureaucratic reality and the plight of the homeless.
Mild, confused, indigent George (Richard Gere) gets evicted from a borrowed apartment and is forced to sleep on the streets again. We see a hospital emergency room, a homeless shelter, the challenges of trying to secure public benefits, and an alienated daughter. With Ben Vereen, Kyra Sedgwick, Steve Buscemi, Brian D’Arcy James. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Benefactor 2016 Directed by Andrew Renzi. A curiosity, really. Wealthy Francis “Franny” Watts (Richard Gere) is so close to college-then-married friends Mia (Cheryl Hines) and Bobby (Dylan Baker), he literally gets into bed to hug them. He’s also favorite rogue uncle to their daughter, Olivia (Dakota Fanning). Bobby and Franny are excited about building a children’s hospital. On the way to a meeting, the philanthropist grabs his buddy from the backseat. A truck sideswipes them. The married couple dies. Olivia leaves town without knowing how the accident happened. Franny is patched together, scarred and limping. His deepest wound, however, is hidden.
Five years later, the straight arrow philanthropist has become a long-haired hippie resembling Arlo Guthrie. He lives in a posh hotel suite, drinks and is addicted to morphine. The hospital, a great success, is the only place anyone sees him – wandering through the halls, cheering up kids. Olivia is happily married to young doctor Luke (Theo James) and pregnant. She reaches out in hopes Franny can help her husband get a job. To say the benefactor takes over every aspect of their lives is putting it mildly. In the process Franny spins out. Free on Amazon Prime.
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer 2016 Directed by Joseph Cedar. Completely unexpected story. Nuanced acting. Small time New York “Fixer” Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere) acts as middleman and does favors for power brokers. He befriends Israeli politician Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkanazi) in order to get to Arthur Taub (Josh Charles). The latter sees through him, the former does not. Years later, Eshel become Prime Minister. Visiting New York on official business, he greets Norman warmly in public raising the fixer’s profile enormously.
Rabbi Blumenthal (Steve Buscemi) of Norman’s synagogue asks him to help raise funds assuming he has substantial influence. The fixer’s solution involves a well known American businessman, his lawyer nephew and his Korean fiancé, an Israeli bribery scandal, and an Israel-Turkey natural gas pipeline. Watch the wheels and sprockets turn. An intruguing story with a surprise ending. Cedar’s fictional character ‘Norman Oppenheimer’ was inspired in part by a real life court Jew who loaned money and was granted privileges by nobility. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Top Bigstock photo: (L-R) Actors Richard Gere, Kyra Sedgwick and Ben Vereen attend “Time Out of Mind” premiere at the 52nd New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall on October 5, 2014 in New York City.