Reviews and notes
In ULEE'S GOLD
, written and directed by Victor Nunez, Peter Fonda gives the performance of his life as Ulee Jackson, a Florida beekeeper in his mid-50s who is struggling to hold his family together. Ulee (short for Ulysses) is a Vietnam veteran who has lost almost everything he cares about. His wife died several years ago, and his son is a criminal screwup, a thief who has landed himself in prison, leaving Ulee to raise two granddaughters.
Ulee, a man of profound selflessness - a dreamer who's begun to bury his dreams - has grown so accustomed to sacrifice that all he wants is to see that sacrifice bear fruit. Fonda, playing this figure of almost biblical rectitude, gives him haunted undercurrents that hint at something more complex than decency, a righteousness that can wound as easily as it heals. Ulee's profession, handed down from- his father and grandfather, is harvesting honey from swarms of bees...
Fonda's acting may seem minimalist, yet he hypnotizes the camera with a gaze that calls up a bottomless well of anger, yearning, and loss. ULEE'S GOLD
is a story of redemption, and Nunez doesn't make redemption look any easier than it is. Ulee's daughter~in-law (Christine Dunford), a self-destructive hellion, uses drugs to empty herself of feeling, and though Ulee despises her flight from responsibility, he has no choice but to save her. What he doesn't realize is that he's also saving himself.
As Ulee confronts his son's underworld past, a nightmare Nunez makes all the more riveting by playing it not for "thrills" but for desperate realism, his journey becomes a blind lunge toward grace... The melting strains of Van Morrison's Tupelo Honey over the closing credits are like a gift to the audience. As ULEE'S GOLD
reveals, it's never too late to reinvent yourself. For the first time, there's love in Peter Fonda's acting,
- Owen Gielberman, Entertainment Weekly, 6/6/97.
Back to screening list