Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the tale of Lily Owens, a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with ... See full summary »
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Robert John Burke
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Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the tale of Lily Owens, a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father, Lily flees with Rosaleen, her caregiver and only friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters, Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping. Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
This film is wonderful, exhilarating, joyful. The cast are all spectacularly talented, and this film is another of those 'secret classics' which don't get the Oscars but actually deserve them. Gina Prince-Bythewood, the woman director, has made an intensely sensitive film about women, and it ain't no chick flic, it is serious stuff. I was knocked out by the sheer talent of the actresses. An eye opener to me was the incredible Queen Latifah. Apparently she is some kind of 'hip hop queen', but I wouldn't know about that, preferring Bach myself. She also 'raps', and I am one of those people who does not like or understand what they call 'rapping' at all, so I am glad she spared us that in the film. I notice from her bio that she was a basketball star in high school. Now that I can well believe, as she has the same 'body confidence' that another basketball player, Barack Obama, has. The director made a feature film about basketball earlier, so maybe that is how she and Miss Hip Hop the Rapper came together. But this woman Queen Latifah is a major example of Something Else. She has super-star quality. Really, I wanted to just rush up and hug her, that is how wonderful I think she was. However, the finest job of acting in this film full of genius is to my mind undoubtedly that of Sophie Okonedo, who plays the character May Boatwright, whose older sister and protector is Queen Latifah. She portrays a girl so tormented by 'not being quite right in the head', and so over-sensitive that she bursts into tears at the slightest thing, that it is hard to believe she is acting. It is a poignant performance, expressing to perfection the desperation of such a person who knows there is something wrong with her but can do nothing about it. The third sister is played by Alicia Keys, in real life a talented musician as well, and she portrays an over-intense hard-as-nails young woman terrified of marital commitment. Into this family comes the now teenaged Dakota Fanning, 'running away from home' as it were. She is making some progress with her speaking. Instead of 80 percent of her words being mumbled it is now down to about 20 percent. If she could ever master speech so that everything she said was comprehensible and audible, she could become a major actress, as her acting abilities are coming along nicely, and she effortlessly dominates scenes as long as Queen Latifah is not around (who has a greater command of the camera). I must say however that Dakota Fanning looked very tired to me, and maybe she ought to take a few months off, as she could burn out if she doesn't watch it, having worked non-stop practically since she was in the womb (I'm amazed she didn't star in something as a foetus). As for the story, it is very moving and emotional, a study in human conflicts, traumas, and feelings. This is the kind of film that women make, whereas men prefer making films where everybody gets killed. There's a gender lesson there somewhere! In this film, not even hope gets killed. So that means there is still hope. Jennifer Hudson gives wonderful support as the character Rosaleen, who accompanies Dakota Fanning as she flees from her father to take refuge with these women who had once known her dead mother. This is a happy-sad story that tears and warms the heart at the same time. Any woman would love it, and even some men might like it in between all the crime movies and battle scenes which they normally watch, where the quality is so often judged quantitatively, i.e. by the body count or by the sizes of the explosions. Here the only quantities involved are the degrees of emotion, which are in the upper nineties at least.
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