The Secret Life of BeesDirected by: Gina Prince-Bythewood Cast: Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo, Paul Bettany Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: PG-13
Plot: Based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd, Lilly (Fanning) is haunted by her past. At the age of 14 she sets off with her nanny Rosaleen (Hudson) to look for a better life, and finds a honey maker (Latifah) who opens her home.
Who’s It For? Fans of the book, and people who need to learn how to love themselves will appreciate this film. It is set in 1964 during the civil rights movement. There is racial tension throughout the film and occasional violence.
Expectations: It's a great cast and a very popular book, though I had not read it. The previews didn't give me much faith that this film would have an emotional impact on me.
Actors: Dakota Fanning as Lily Owens: Wow, Lily has baggage. Tons of it. That's what happens when you accidentally kill a parent at the age of 4. Don't worry. I didn't ruin anything, that happens in the first few minutes. Fanning is at a difficult age where she isn't a cute little kid anymore and this film is asking us to go on a journey with a 14-year-old who makes rash decisions. And no, this isn't the Dakota Fanning rape movie. That's Hounddog. Score: 5
Queen Latifah as August Boatwright: She's the mama bear or queen bee of the group and Latifah wears it like a glove. She's even dropping lines like, "Heaven's to Betsy," and "Well, if this ain't the living end." There is also a preaching scene that taps into August's religious beliefs but it isn't fully explored. Score: 5
Jennifer Hudson as Rosaleen Daise: Both Lily and Rosaleen take leaps without truly understanding the consequences. When Rosaleen is going to register to vote ... and stands up to the racist men, it's difficult to take. It's a powerful scene, but I'm right there with Lily, don't antagonize three angry racists, period. Isn't there a warrant out for Rosaleen? I would have loved more of a focus on her transformation, but we were too busy with Lily. Also, she was three steps away from Massive Head-Wound Harry for a little bit there, right? Score: 4
Alicia Keys as June Boatwright: She kept reminding me of Jada Pinkett Smith, just constantly acting tough. In fact, there's a moment where it clearly looks like she just convinced a man to back away; otherwise he'd get a whooping. It's too much of one-dimension, and it also kills the romance she has in the film with Neil (Nate Parker). Score: 3
Sophie Okonedo as May Boatwright: Totally uncomfortable. I couldn't grasp what kind of level of learning disability May suffered from and it made every moment awkward. May is able to write out a beautiful letter, yet doctors considered locking her up earlier in her life. Finally, it never felt like Lily was getting too close to May so that connection never felt true. Score: 3
Talking: The '60s were filled with awful, racist events, but when Lily says she is the cause for the events that befall May and Zach (Tristan Wilds) she is accurate. Those events wouldn't have happened if Lily hadn't come into their lives. Yet August or anyone else never thinks this. That's the overall problem with the script ... it doesn't seem they are talking about the same things we are watching. Score: 5
Sights & Sounds: They didn't focus on music from the '60s as much as I thought they would. Hudson sings a little, so does Latifah and Keys. Keys also has the closing credits song. With almost all period pieces, the look of the film is completely accurate. Score: 6
OVERALL The men (Bettany, Parker, Wilds) all take a back seat to the women in The Life of Bees. And don't worry, there are plenty of bee analogies about life to last you a while. There's also not a clear passing of time or distance. Didn't Lily and Rosaleen just walk for a day or two? You're just stuck waiting ... waiting while Lily is able to finally get close to a family ... waiting while Rosaleen is becoming a strong black woman ... you're waiting because you can feel something awful is coming. It can't be shaken. When they are laughing and cooking, you are thinking, "Racism will pop up any second now," or "T-Ray is going to show up";it's an uncomfortable feeling. Final Score: 5/10