Every so often, a film works up your emotions so that it is hard to put into words just how powerful it is. The Secret Life of Bees is one of these films.
It is by no means a perfect film, however, but the adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s best-selling novel does so many things right with a fantastic cast and a director (Gina Prince-Bythewood) who very clearly understands what the novel is about, which makes it so tough to think that a film like this might be overlooked this season.
Following the novel, which is set in 1964, Dakota Fanning plays Lily, the only child of an abusive father, living under the torment of an accident from her younger days.
Questions rack her brain about the mysteries surrounding her mother. Her housemaid, Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson), gets wrapped up in some trouble with the police, sparking Lily to break her free and flee to a small town in South Carolina where she may find some answers.
The duo comes across the home of the Boatwright sisters: August, May and June. Led by Queen Latifah’s August, the family makes their living off a successful and respected honey business based out of their Pepto-Bismol colored home. Met with reluctance from June (Alicia Keys), the two are welcomed into the home after Lily lies about their origins.
As mentioned, the film isn’t perfect. The set up of the film spends too much time on the millings of Lily and Rosaleen around their home. But it picks up once the pair reaches the Boatwright sisters.
The sisters themselves are a strong bunch and are wonderfully portrayed. Alicia Keys proves she can be a legitimate actress, but Latifah and Sophie Okonedo outshine her in almost every way. Latifah brings a certain maternal element to the character with great personality and emotion.
Okonedo’s May is a somewhat disturbed character, but in the sense that she feels for every human in the world and almost literally carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her facial expressions and emotions are incredible, and it wouldn’t be too surprising if she earns another Oscar nomination (she received one for Hotel Rwanda).
Fanning, already well grounded in the acting, shows exactly why that is so. However, her performance is better with everyone outside of Jennifer Hudson. Hudson is not a bad actress, but she does seem to force it just a bit and seem a little odd.
The racial tensions and faith in religion during the times comes through strong and the film definitely benefits from that strength. You couldn’t ask for a better adaptation of the book. Full of powerful messages and scenes, The Secret Life of Bees is well worth taking the time to see.