|Writer/Director Gina Prince-Bythewood|
Saturday, October 18, 2008
"The Secret Life of Bees"
Writer/Director Gina Prince-Bythewood, winner of the Independent Spirit Award for Sundance hit, "Love & Basketball," has now brought the beloved, acclaimed best-seller, "The Secret Life of Bees" to the screen.
1964, South Carolina. After a tragic accident leaves her motherless, Lily Owens (played with open-eyed honestly by Dakota Fanning) is raised in a loveless home by her cruel, distant father. Fourteen year old Lily longs for a mother she never knew. When her only friend, their black maid Rosaleen, ends up in the hospital and under arrest for insulting a racist white man, the girls are forced to go on the run. The only trace of her mama's past is a honey jar label that Lily found in her few processions.
Lily and Rosaleen end up on the doorstep of the Boatwrights, the black sisters who own the successful honey farm. Lily concocts an elaborate lie to persuade the maternal August Boatwright (played with warm dignity by Queen Latifah) to temporarily take them in. They are met with some resistance from the guarded June (Alicia Keys), a classical cellist and civil rights activist. But they are welcomed enthusiastically by the open-hearted May (played with touching vulnerability by Sophie Okonedo). They soon find that hyper-sensitive May is moved to tears by the mention of anything sad.
August teaches Lily how to tend the bees, and May whole heartedly embraces both girls. They are soon accepted as part of the family. But Lily still needs to find the truth of why her mother left her.
This is a coming of age story and parable about how to cope with the painful truth and find forgiveness. As Lily's young love interest puts it, "It's not just about the truth. It's about what you do with it." The two sisters illustrate different ways to deal with the hard truths of life. June has closed her heart and built a protective wall to keep out hurtful emotions. While May has completely opened her heart and feels everyone's pain. Her heart is open to joy but it is also an open wound. Lily says that she would rather be like May than her father who has blocked his emotions turning him into a cruel man.
I loved being in this world and a part of this loving family - so much that I stayed for a second screening. This is due in part to Gina Prince-Bythewood's excellent adaptation and the wonderful acting of Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, and especially Sophie Okonedo - who is literally the heart of the film.
If you're looking for a sweet way to spend the afternoon, "The Secret Life of Bees" will supply the honey.