Monday, 21 September 2020
The Secret Life of Bees
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Thursday, 23 October 2008 00:00

ThumbnailThe Secret Life of Bees weaves a tale of Southern discomfort that is saccharine sweet but sticky enough to get caught up in. Based on the best-selling novel by Sue Monk Kid, it is a tale of empowerment that, although cliché, tells a good story.

I’ll admit that walking into the theatre I expected to be rolling my eyes at the hordes of women who would be dabbing the tears from theirs. I was prepared to be smirking silently at the sappy, wisdom soaked dialogue being imparted upon me – Hollywood’s attempt at faith healing coming to me over a bag of buttered popcorn. I wasn’t far off, though I didn’t quite manage that smirk, and might have been blinking away a few stray tears of my own.

The movie stars Dakota Fanning as Lily Owens, a 14-year old girl growing up in South Carolina in the 1960’s and being raised by an abusive father (Paul Bettany). Their housekeeper Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) is beaten up by racist thugs and consequently arrested when she refuses to apologize for spitting on their shoes. Lily springs Rosaleen and the two run away together to a town called Tiburon, where Lily hopes to find out more about her deceased mother.

The tale really takes off when they arrive in the town and find refuge in the electric-pink home of the Boatwright sisters, a trio of women who manufacture honey. August Boatwright (Queen Latifa) is kind and wise, June is beautiful and spoiled, and May is emotionally sensitive. Together they stand for strength and determination in the face of adversity and Lily has never seen women like them. During her time with them she begins to realize the affects of discrimination, as America struggles through the implementation of the Civil Rights Act.

I know, I know… It’s a poor man’s To Kill A Mockingbird. But although it sounds very formulaic, it is hard to resist a simple story well told. Dakota Fanning puts in a really strong performance that serves to ground the piece and prove that she isn’t just a child-star who will wash up on some therapist’s couch some day. She’s reminiscent of young Jodi Foster in both looks and ability, and I can’t wait to see where her career will take her.

ThumbnailJennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys are solid while Queen Latifa once again exudes strength and wisdom on screen. All of this makes me wonder just how many musicians-turned-actors one movie can hold, but if I were so multi-talented I guess I would want to diversify as well! One related complaint I do have is that the soundtrack contains too many modern songs that, while lovely, took me out of the film. It would have been wiser to stick with music that evoked the time period.

The movie is visually beautiful, bathed in rich honey tones to match the title. It’s no secret that The Secret Life of Bees will do well among audiences, but it really is a nice little film that doesn’t overreach its’ boundaries.