The Secret Life of Bees
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
A white girl finds solace at a honey business owned by three black women.
Whether or not you’ll enjoy The Secret Life of Bees depends “on your blood-sugar level and your tolerance for syrupy sentiment,” said Michael O’Sullivan in The Washington Post. In this soppy adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel, set in rural South Carolina during the civil-rights movement, Dakota Fanning plays a 14-year-old whcivilco escapes her redneck father and finds comfort among three black sisters and their honey business. All the sentiment and sisterhood you’d expect are “laid on as thick as honey over corn bread and just as sweet.” Screenwriter and director Gina Prince-Bythewood is clearly uncomfortable with the “heavy themes” the book addressed, said Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News. By smothering the film in sap, she removes the historical context that gave the novel authenticity. This film shows none of the “messiness of real life” in the 1960s, said Rene Rodriguez in The Miami Herald. The ensemble cast, which includes Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, and Hotel Rwanda’s Sophie Okonedo, rises above the gooeyness. But Prince-Bythewood’s fictional world is “too perfect and precious” to leave viewers fully satisfied.