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The Secret Life of Bees /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Keys

Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Produced by: Lauren Shuler Donner, Joe Pichirallo, James Lassiter, Will Smith
Written by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Note: I'm limiting select reviews to 250 words this week due to time constraints.

     Oh what a pleasure it is to be in the company of four great actresses during The Secret Life of Bees. Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Sophie Okenedo, and Queen Latifah are all superb in the film, casting a genuine sense of warmth over the viewer. And Alicia Keys—who knew she could act? Despite its seasoned line-up of strong female African-American headliners and the gifted teenage lead who often upstages them all, however, The Secret Life of Bees’ Civil Rights-era narrative fails to engage on the same level that its performances do. There isn’t anything inherently wrong about the movie’s story of a white girl (Fanning) and her family’s black maid (Hudson) seeking refuge in the home of a honey-harvesting group of sisters (Keys, Latifah, and Okenedo) after a they respectively endure domestic abuse and racial injustice. But writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood, adapting from Sue Monk Kidd’s source novel, fails to capture the level emotional authenticity that the material could’ve lent itself to. For example, a third-act death that should be devastating is only mildly-moving because subsequent scenes seem to thrust the cast into a battle to extract something beyond surface-sympathy from the script. The Secret Life of Bees is the last thing you’d expect it to be given its wide-ranging cast: muted. Yes, it is wonderful to spend time with these fine actresses, but it’s a shame that Prince-Bythewood has fashioned such a basic and derivative motion picture out of the opportunity.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 10.15.2008

Screened on: 10.7.2008 at the Zanuck Theatre on the Fox Lot in Century City, CA.


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