Monday, November 3, 2008
The Secret Life of Bees
This movie was such an unexpected treasure. I went into it with next to no idea of what it was about, which is fun to do sometimes. I knew it was based on a pretty popular book, and I'd read the little synopsis on fandango, but that was it. I knew who was in it, though, and that made me want to see it: Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Paul Bettany, and Jennifer Hudson.
For those of you like me who haven't read the book, it's about a young teenage girl named Lily (Fanning) in 1964 South Carolina who is haunted by fuzzy memories of her mother's death ten years earlier. With only a few items of her mother's as clues to guide her, she runs away to a town called Tiburon with her nanny (Hudson) in search of answers, leaving her abusive father (Bettany) behind, furious and determined to find her and bring her back. Upon arriving in Tiburon, she is led to three bee-keeping sisters (Latifah, Keys and Sophie Okonedo) who take her in and begin to teach her the trade of honey-making. Over time, Lily learns about love, family, and the truth about her mother's past.
Dakota Fanning has always been an amazing actress for someone so young. I was mesmerized by her skills back in 2001 watching I Am Sam, when she was 7. Now she's 14, and has somehow managed to avoid the awkward, not-so-attractive pubescent phase. Although she looked pale and sickly the entire movie, she was still easy on the eyes, not painful to watch at all (unlike Haley Joel Osment screeching his way through Secondhand Lions.) She will only get better with time. (And hopefully steer clear of the Child Actors Hall of Shame, otherwise known as rehab.)
Queen Latifah is just, well, awesome. I love her. She is so classy and real and I could sit and watch her read the phone book. Jennifer Hudson was great as a proud but scared black woman who just wants her place in the world, and Sophie Okonedo played an emotionally unstable but lovable sweetheart really well. (I still can't look at her without seeing the Watchati Princess who bears her upper half to Ace Ventura, though.) Paul Bettany, who I've loved since A Beautiful Mind, swaps his British accent here for a southern one and is actually believable doing so. It was hard watching him as a complete loser, but that just proves what a great actor he is. And Alicia Keys...she was who I was most curious to see, never having seen her act before. I've always been a big fan of her music, and I think she is go-geous (plus she has the coolest name on the planet). She didn't let me down. She played the very proud, very put-together, very stick-up-her-you-know-what sister perfectly.
I fell in love with this movie because there was no fluff. It was real, it was powerful, it was gritty at times...it made me well up in several parts and I don't cry at movies. It dealt with racism, broken families, abuse, and first loves, to name a few. I saw it with my husband and thought for sure he would have thought it was girly and sappy, but he loved it. He is still talking about the "bee" movie, which throws me off every time because I always think he's randomly bringing up the animated "Bee Movie."
And other than a few swear words, there really wasn't anything in it that shouldn't have been. I will definitely be owning this one, and now I have to add the book to my mile-long list of books to read.
*Go here for a look at this movie through the eyes of someone (my cousin Noelle) who also lost their mother at a very young age. It has a bit more spoilers than mine, but is so worth the read.