The Secret Life of Bees is former child star Dakota Fanning’s breakout adult role.
Though you can see flashes of how good Fanning will be doing teen-age and adult parts in the future, she’s not that good here.
Considering that the superb support of the queen of charisma, Queen Latifah can’t help this heavy-handed, directionless plot either, it may not be Fanning’s fault. Also starring are singers Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys and actress Sophie Okonedo.
The Secret Life of Bees is set in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson’s "Great Society" legislated full voting rights to the nation’s African-American populace. In South Carolina, 14-year old Lily Owens runs away from her abusive father. Going with her is a young black woman beat up by rednecks for wanting to register to vote.
At first, you think the controversy of a young white girl on the run with a black woman is the focal point. Then you become convinced that the serious Deep South no-no of her living with a Negro family of beekeepers is where the movie is heading.
Lily’s dark secret is guilt that she shot and killed her mother when she was four. But that’s not the film’s focus either.
Are you catching a pattern here? The exact point of The Secret Life of Bees is tough to pin down. As you expect it is packed with tragedy, injustice and intolerance balanced by prodigious amounts of forgiveness, love, hope and wisdom. There are a few moments where writer/director Gina Prince-Blythewood’s script rips out your heart. You hold your breath and try to keep the tears at bay.
The head-scratcher is that they are strangely disconnected from everything else in her ramshackle plot.
Maybe some secrets should remain untold.
Mr. Movie rating: 2 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday at the Columbia Mall 8 and at Fairchild Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.