The Secret Life of Bees
Screen Time: 80%
Role: Lily Owens
Age: 13 years old
The Secret Life of Bees
Directed: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the tale of Lily Owens -- a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father, Lily flees with Rosaleen, her caregiver and only friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters, Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping.
Movie ReviewsSincere and sweet
The natural world order is a clockwork-like mechanism of rituals and rhythms that are invisible to the naked eye.
But "The Secret Life of Bees" has no mysterious eddies or agendas below its surface. Its truths are as plainspoken as the nose on your face.
And if its story of a troubled young girl's coming of age and the three sisters who help her find her place in the world follows a too-familiar template, it is thoroughly generous of spirit. That the girl, played by Dakota Fanning, is white and the sisters are African-American are notable distinctions in a tale set in a civil rights-era South. And although the lessons seem slight and sometimes even elementary, this does not make them any less heartfelt or sincere.
The first words out of the girl's mouth are a stunning admission: "I was 4 years old when I killed my mother."
There is more to it than that; the mother was shot while struggling for a gun with the girl's father, in the girl's presence.
But the crushing feelings of guilt and loss that consume the girl are compounded by the father's cruel treatment of her. And so, 10 years after her mother's death, on her 14th birthday, when a domestic who cares for her is beaten trying to register to vote, the two run away in search of the girl's mother's roots.
They don't travel far, but they end up in a place so idyllic as to seem another world. It is the home of three sisters, played by Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo and Alicia Keys. And it is a honey farm tended to by Latifah, who gently dispenses homespun wisdom while teaching Fanning the craft of beekeeping.
In a more realistic film, police would be searching for Fanning and the domestic, played by Jennifer Hudson. But this is a safe harbor and sanctuary, and harm touches them only if they leave it.
Leave it they do, and touch them it eventually does, compounding Fanning's sense of guilt. But even as it does, the small details of each character's life are allowed to unfold piecemeal, like bread crumbs leading the way along a path toward forgiveness and reconciliation.
"Bees" was adapted from the novel by Sue Monk Kidd and "Love & Basketball" writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood.
And while it has a period and rural naturalism and explores themes of remembrance, sisterhood and racial tolerance, the film's strength is in its subtly powerful performances.
Latifah conveys a distinctive Mother Earth-like aura of authority and integrity.
Okonedo, who was in "Hotel Rwanda," conveys childlike simplicity.
And Keys, the singer who also was in "The Nanny Diaries," personifies the defiance of a changing era.
While Fanning's character is superficially a variation on the rape victim she played in "Hounddog," her mature performance is the window to an inner life that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.