Eye For Film >> Movies >> Ulee's Gold (1997) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Fonda plays Henry Fonda. He plays him stiff and awkward. Ulee is stiff and awkward. His son's doing time, his wife's dead, his bee business is under threat from cheap imports and his granddaughters are staying because their mom's strung out in Orlando with tattooed scum trash.
For a feelgood movie, the hives are stacked against it. Ulee is "an old fashioned ties-that-bind kinda guy", who cares about the things that matter. He doesn't talk much, avoids social and sexual intercourse, tells teen queen Casey (Jessica Biel), his fiesty, sulky, micro-minied eldest granddaughter to be back by 11 when she's off on a date with the high school stud and rebuffs the advances of a neighbourly divorcee (Patricia Richardson), who only wants to be friendly - at first, anyway, before she tweets, "Call me Connie," and makes those candlelit raincheck eyes.
When his son's mates put the pressure on to hand over stolen money and the girls' mother is brought back to go cold turkey at the homestead (neat bungalow in the 'burbs, actually), with Doc Connie in attendance, things move up a gear. From being a decent- bloke-doing-the-best-he-can-in-shitty-circs meditative piece, it becomes a run-of-the-gun action pic, with off-the-peg bad guys in standard issue denim doing rough things to women and a partially crippled beekeeper (Ulee has a wonky knee from 'Nam).
Fonda has picked up awards for his performance and was mentioned in dispatches at Hollywood's '98 Kiss Kiss, otherwise known as Oscar Night. This is suprising, not to say generous. Emotionally scarred and introverted, Ulee needs a shrink, not a tree surgeon. The bees are good and Biel, in her first movie role, shows genuine promise. Otherwise, Victor Nunez, who made the haunting Ruby In Paradise, cannot avoid stereotyping. Peter's dad undoubtedly would have brought a certain grandeur to Ulee's lonely life. He's missed.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001