The Secret Life of Bees

The great piney woods of South Carolina have never been so lovingly photographed...at least I assume that's where it was filmed. If you have read the best seller by Sue Monk Kidd, you already know that is where the story takes place.

Dakota Fanning ("Man on Fire" and "Charlotte's Web") plays the 14-year-old daughter of Paul Bettany ("A Beautiful Mind," "Wimbledon" and "A Knight's Tale" - remember his nude Chaucer?), a hard-drinking lout who makes her kneel in uncooked grits when she disobeys. I would have scoffed at this, but I recalled one of my friends whose stepfather forced her to kneel in pie tins of uncooked pinto beans, so I guess this must be acceptable. Our young heroine is troubled by memories surrounding the loss of her deceased mother and after a traumatic event triggered by some racist good ole boys, she runs away, along with the family's hired girl, played by Jennifer Hudson ("Sex and the City" and an Academy Award for "Dreamgirls").

They end up at the home of the Boatwright sisters, who make their living harvesting honey from their many bee hives. The three sisters are effectively played by Queen Latifah ("Chicago," "Bringing Down the House" and "Mad Money"), Alicia Keys ("Drumline," "Ugly Betty" and "Quantum of Solace") and the amazing Sophie Okonedo ("Hotel Rwanda," "Martian Child" and "Skin"), who dazzled me with her convincing turn as the sister who "isn't quite right."

If you've read the book you probably wonder if their house really IS Pepto-Bismol pink....yes, it IS!

Once again I feel compelled to comment on the versatility of some of the actors:
  • Paul Bettany, an Englishman, this time with an authentic Southern cracker twang.
  • Sophie Okonedo, London born and bred who had a Ugandan accent the first time I saw her!
  • Queen Latifah, never more beatific -- but with NO irony this time. In this role she really IS saintly.

This movie is lovely to see and has a satisfying conclusion. The 60s are evoked by the clothing, the cars, the politics and the street scenes of the semi-rural south. In my opinion, they have brought the book to life.