PG-13 for thematic material and some violence
Oct. 17, 2008
Drama and Adaptation
Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Keys
BASED ON NOVEL BY:
Sue Monk KIdd
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The Secret Life of Bees
By Beth Patch
-Sometimes, it’s difficult to watch a movie about the early ‘60s in America, simply because racism has never been comfortable for me. Throughout this movie, examples of the shameful acts that were committed against African Americans by many white Americans are portrayed.
But, The Secret Life of Bees focuses on relationships, not racism. The racism is indicative of the era and deepens the drama that Lily (Dakota Fanning) and Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) face as they flee their unhappy lives in Virginia. Lily, age 14, is taking the teenager escape route from her abusive single father. Rosaleen, the family caretaker/nanny joins Lily in an impulsive moment after a racially motivated beating.
They are not only running away; they are both seeking to have some basic emotional needs met. Lily wants a mother’s love; Rosaleen wants human rights. Their exodus brings them to Tiburon, South Carolina, a destination chosen by Lily because of its possible ties to her deceased mother. It is there that they meet August Boatwright (Queen Latifah) and her younger sisters, June (Alicia Keys) and May (Sophie Okonedo), who own and operate a successful bee farm and honey-making business.
Who could turn away this unlikely pair when they knock on the Boatwright’s front door? One of the sisters could, but the matriarch, the role model maternal figure in this movie won’t hear of it. As Lily and Rosaleen become part of the household, we get caught up in feeling the sorrows of losses and injustices in their lives, the joys of their safe and peaceful existence in the loving Boatwright home, and the mystery of how Lily’s mother’s past had anything to do with the place.
This movie is based upon the well-loved novel of the same title by Sue Monk Kidd. Latifah, Fanning, and other cast members relished starring in this film because of their sincere fondness of the novel. It is a story that applauds maternal love, whether it be from the mother of Jesus Christ, an ordinary mother, or anyone who gives or receives that nurturing love.
There are several spiritual inferences throughout the story. The Boatwright women are "church ladies" who dress to the nines for worship times. The general sense that love and acceptance trump racist and other abusive actions is strongly felt throughout the movie. One of the Boatwright sisters struggles so frequently with her emotions over injustice and despair that they have contstructed a makeshift "Wailing Wall" that she frequents and places notes to God filled with her heartfelt prayers. This provides a strong message that these women believe taking their troubles to the Lord will bring satisfaction to the soul.
There is a spiritual shrine in the main sitting room of the Boatwright home. In the most trying of emotional times and on a weekly worship basis, the women of the home and their social circle, place their hands on the chest of “Mary,” and “never feel fear again,” as they draw from the strength of the Madonna. At one point, Lily speaks to her in a prayer-like manner. She appears to have been hand carved out of a cypress stump, but local history says she was a miracle that came up out of the water just as you see her, standing with one arm raised in strength and the sorrows of years evident in her face. Her image also appears on the label of the Boatwright honey jars and was the image on the keepsake that Lily had of her mother’s. This wooden woman was being honored as Mary, mother of Jesus. The spiritual relevance of Mother Mary is intertwined with the overall theme that maternal love is healing and powerful. However, the image of praying to this shrine of Mary may bother some Christians.
It should also be noted that a fair amount of obscenities are spoken by Lily’s abusive father and various townspeople.
The overall push of the movie is towards love that knows no color, knows no bloodline, and knows no limits. That message comes across clearly.
I would recommend this movie to anyone who liked the book, anyone who likes the actresses and actors in the movie, and anyone who can relate to a drama for those who seek to feel lovable.
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