Published Oct 16, 2008Truthfully saccharine and filtered through the lens of Oprah approval, The Secret Life of Bees plays it safe with its many touchy issues but is thankfully never cloying and doesnt sacrifice its intelligence for the sake of mass approval. A sharp ideological rage is apparent, as is a mature, world-weathered perspective that understands both human complexity and the growth that stems from disappointment, pain and the need to move on.
These struggles manifest themselves through 14-year-old Lily (Dakota Fanning), a young girl ridden with pain and guilt in 1964 who flees home with her caregiver Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) to South Carolina to learn more of her late mothers past. Without a place to stay, she is taken in by August Boatwright (Queen Latifah), her politically motivated daughter June (Alicia Keys) and her other severely depressive daughter May (Sophie Okonedo).
With the Boatwrights, Lily learns more about her mother and the intricacies and impossibilities of unconditional love in a world that offers so much hate and injustice.
Observations about the human tendency to dwell on the love we miss in our lives rather than the love we have, when mirrored with issues of severe depression, rage and guilt, keeps Bees a few steps ahead of the many other films of this ilk. Nothing is particularly new or even positioned with any particular sense of originality but the overall package is affable and well intentioned.
The performances across the board are solid, aside from a bizarre character interpretation from Ms. Okonedo, but its Dakota Fanning who stands out. She smartly plays her character without entitlement and also without embarrassment, even when ignorance is apparent, allowing Lilys youthful curiosities to exist minus the burden of undue apologies. (Fox Searchlight)