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Lily Owens is a young girl who lives on a peach farm that her abusive father owns. Rosaleen is a black woman hired by Lily's father to be a stand in mother for Lilly (Her real mother died in a horrendous accident that happened when she was a toddler). but when Rosaleen insults some of the biggest racists in their town, Lily is forced to take Rosaleen and run away to a town Lily believer her mother once lived. They go to live with the three Boatwright sisters on their honey farm, and Lily soon learns what it is like to have a real family.
The Secret Life of Bees is an embarrassment of riches that unfortunately amounts to nothing.
This is a film I really wanted to love, and was almost afraid to see in case it disappointed. And what a disappointment.
Starting with a cast of some of the best actresses in the business and an award-winning book, you'd think you could hardly go wrong. But Bees is low on drama, lacking in emotion, and almost devoid of any kind of conflict.
Dakota Fanning is terrific as the young runaway who carries a terrible secret. But she has nothing at all to work with in the script. Everyone is so understanding and so caring that she never really seems to be in any sort of peril.
Queen Latifah has an even less enviable role as the family's emotional lynchpin who is so wise she seems to have solved all problems before they even happen.
Even the undertone of racial intolerance and slavery is bared explored. The women who take Lily in are well-dressed, well-bred, and sophisticated. They have white friends; they have an amazing life. Even a suicide gets glossed over as a positive kind of choice instead of being full of raw emotion.
It's like the writer chose to stay so close to the novel that she forgot she was writing a screenplay. There's no tension, no conflict, and no depth to the characters. Each of them has a trigger point instead, something that they struggle with, but the struggle is entirely inside each woman. They don't help each other, but are merely present while the others come almostmiraculously through their challenges.Paul Bettany is largely wasted as Lily's dad, and even a racially motivated beating with what should have been an unbearably sad outcome barely stirs the water of the generally complacent and self-satisfied tone.
There's no real visual component to the film either, and despite the clever title, there's no real allegory involving bees. Are we supposed to think of the legendary industry of bees, or the less flattering idea of drones?
In this hive, there's no queen, and precious little honey being made.