Rating: 3/4 (Lovingly shot and engaging, though a bit long)
I got a chance to watch the movie The Secret Life of Bees at a screening at the university. The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Sue Monk Kidd. The movie is set in 1964, around the time of the Civil Rights Movement in USA. Lily, a young girl, lives in South Carolina with her unloving dad T.Ray and her black servant Rosaleen. Rosaleen is racially abused when she tries to sign up as a voter. Lily and Rosaleen run away from home, Rosaleen to save her life and Lily in search of her mother's memories, which have been tormenting her. By the logo of a honey jar that Lily had from her mother, she lands up at the home of the Boatwright sisters who make that brand of honey. Lying about their reasons for being there, they stay on in the house. The elder sister August teaches Lily how to collect honey, while Rosaleen helps around the house. They live happily like this, until a racial fight erupts when Lily is seen with a black boy who frequently helps around the Boatwright residence. The chain of events that follow rock the Boatwright home, but also bring closure to Lily and the memory of her mother.
The Secret Life of Bees is completely dominated by its female characters. Dakota Fanning is Lily, and she does not seem to have grown up much at all, from the last time I saw her in War of the Worlds. Thankfully, she is not as irritating as she was in her earlier movies. Acting as the responsible elder sister August at the Boatwright residence comes easily to Queen Latifah. Alicia Keys acts as her beautiful younger sister June, who I could not even recognize in her 60s getup! Paul Bettany, the imaginary roommate of Nash (Russell Crowe) from A Beautiful Mind, is great to watch as the pained and unloving T.Ray. Except for Dakota Fanning, who I find grating whenever she cries, the acting talent here is very satisfactory. The story is engaging and the cinematography is lovely. The settings of the 1960s and honeymaking are delicious to watch. I felt the movie was a bit stretched out and could have been shorter. The Secret Life of Bees is a lovely delicious tale, though a bit long.