Saturday, October 18, 2008

Film Review: The Secret Life of Bees

After staying after school an average of 2 hours every day this week, I was in desperate need of a "me" day today. Thanks to Facebook, I am recently back in touch with a long-lost friend who is also a massage therapist. She came to the house this morning and we multi-tasked--she gave me a fantastic 90-minute massage and we caught up on each other's lives and the lives of people we know mutually.

We made plans to meet at the Santa Anita mall and go see The Secret Life of Bees. It seems our movie tastes are pretty near identical. So, 90 minutes after those first 90 minutes, we met to enjoy the movie.

I read the book, by Sue Monk Kidd, around 4 years ago when it was very popular, but I didn't remember much. It didn't matter, the movie was lovely and stood alone as a quality film that dealt with family, racial prejudice, and love.

Dakota Fanning (who I don't really like, but, I'll admit the girl can act) plays Lily Owens, a 14-year old in Virginia in the mid 1960's. Lily lives with her volatile father, T-Ray (Paul Bettany) and housekeeper Rosaline (Jennifer Hudson.) The only thing she knows about her mother is that she shot her dead by accident when she was 4 years old. And, depending on how angry he is, T-Ray manipulates Lily's feelings by telling her that her mother didn't want her.

When Rosaline insults a white man in town and is beaten and arrested, Lily decides they both need a new start. She rescues Rosaline and heads for a town named Tiburon. She is inspired by a small wooden plaque that belonged to her mother. On the front is a picture of a black Madonna and child. The word "Tiburon" is written on the back.

In Tiburon, Lily sees honey jars in a store with the same black Madonna on the labels. The shopkeeper tells her the honey is made by a woman named August Boatwright (Queen Latifah.) Lily feels that meeting August is her destiny. She's right, but for reasons different than she originally thinks.

I've said enough about the premise, but the film deals with Lily and Rosaline's time with the Boatwright sisters: August, June (Alicia Keys,) and May (Sophie Okonedo, in what will probably be a nominated performance.) Each sister's personality is very distinct , but they love and live and depend on each other.

The casting was excellent in the film. All of the actors were at the top of their game. I was actually most impressed with Alicia Keys. We all know the others can act, but I only know Keys as a singer. She was very, very good and has a strong presence onscreen. Queen Latifah, as she often does, plays the character who leads the others and is the voice of reason. And, like always, she does it in a very cool way. Doesn't she seem like she would be an awesome person to just hang out with?

This is a film for all ages that deals with racial issues that our young people need to know about. But it is a fair movie. It doesn't just show the injustices that black people suffered at the hands of the white people before the Civil Rights Act. It shows the hurt that people inflict upon each other within their own race. And, like throughout history, people often hurt the ones they love. The film has a lot of wisdom and balance and a satisfying ending.

Very highly recommended. It is PG-13, but I would say it is appropriate for mature kids as young as 10.

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