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New Rental: Secret Life of Bees

August 9, 2009

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As an adaptation, “‘The Secret Life of Bees” captures the spirit of the book, but whether that spirit says much more than what has been said in a thousand other Civil Right stories, I am not quite as sure. However, as a coming-of-age story for young female Lily, I know we have seen better.

Starring Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Dakota Fanning, the story follows a young girl as she struggles to understand the loss of her mother and issues of abandonment with the Civil Rights movement occurring almost as a backdrop to the white girl’s story.The acting is phenomenal from all the actresses, particularly Keys and Fanning. But the strong performances can’t help what is a flat storyline.

How the two stories of Civil Rights and coming-of-age intermingle at times does become an interesting way to note the country’s own growing up process. For example, when Fanning’s character Lily goes to the movies with Neil (played by Nate Parker), angry white men grab Neil out of the theater where he disappears. The women talk of the past, of forgiveness, but also of change for the future. All the while Lily struggles with the same pain over her mother.

Filmed in North Carolina, I couldn’t help but think of the far more touching film “Bastard out of North Carolina” that looks at a young girl’s struggle in dealing with a mother who has bad taste in men and living in poverty as she comes of age.

Gina Prince-Bythwood as a director typically captures a happy ending on screen with her previous work including “Love and Basketball.” As progression grows, “The Secret Life of Bees” is a step up in production for the director, but still the story never quite hits the right notes. But, for a slightly saccharine-tale, there are some moments that make the film worth a rental.

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