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The Secret Life of Bees
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Secret Life of Bees More at IMDbPro »

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Index 51 reviews in total 

85 out of 113 people found the following review useful:

Solid film...

6/10
Author: TheQuietStorm from New York City
14 September 2008

I caught an exclusive screening of this film a week back and I must say, it might be the best film featuring a mostly black cast since "Antwone Fisher." The story centers around Lily (Dakota Fanning), a poor, lonely little girl in the deep south, who deals with a tragic past and a miserable, cruel father (Paul Bettany). Her life revolves around dreams of being every bit like her deceased mother and her relationship with her caregiver Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson).

In the midst of the civil rights movement, Rosaleen finds herself in some trouble with the locals, inspiring Lily to flee with her to a South Carolina town that she believes holds the secret to her mother's past. In this town, they find refuge with the Boatwright sisters (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo), who take them in on the strength of a story concocted by Lily. Through their cultured world, filled with beekeeping, a lucrative honey business, religious beliefs and love, Lily finds the security she has longed for and finds the answers to questions that haunted her for years.

The director (Prince-Brythewood) did a great job at making us care about the characters, even the miserable father played excellently by Paul Bettany. Alicia Keys shows that some R&B singers can actually perform well in a movie, playing the snooty June Boatwright. However, the best performances has to be between Fanning and Okonedo, who played the gentle, simple minded, manic depressive May Boatwright. If Okonedo reminded me less of Thandie Newton's character in "Beloved," I would've predicted an Oscar nomination depending on this year's competition. Maybe there's one in store for Bettany? Its all left to be seen.

The film has its flaws. It dragged for a good portion of the first thirty minutes as we watch Lily and Rosaleen mill about, doing mundane things in their pitiful lives. But then it really picks up when they meet the Boatwright sisters. The characters were balancing on a thin line between empathetic and sympathetic. You never want to be in the latter. And the filmmakers couldn't resist being a bit schmaltzy on occasion, making most of it play like a good after school special with nothing beyond two dimensionality. And my biggest problem with the film... anti-climatic.

Overall, its a solid film and definitely worth the time in seeing.

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68 out of 83 people found the following review useful:

wonderful movie

8/10
Author: kirkfam-1 from United States
18 October 2008

I'm not sure why this film got such a bad rating....it's truly one of the nicest films I've seen in a long time! I brought my daughter to see the movie today -- we both had tears in our eyes throughout the movie. The acting was superb, as was the casting. Normally I like to read the book before seeing a movie, as usually the book is so much better. I am glad that my daughter talked me into going to this movie. I think cinematically, it was one of the prettiest movies I've seen in awhile. You are taken from laughing one moment to feeling as though your heart is being tugged out of your body in the next moment. I will definitely be recommending this film to my friends!

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54 out of 63 people found the following review useful:

Welcome to the family!

9/10
Author: reelinspiration from United States
18 October 2008

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. 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, is assaulted in a racist incident, the girls are forced to go on the run.

Lily and Rosaleen end up on the doorstep of the Boatwrights, the black sisters who own a 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.

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.

Movie blessings! Jana Segal reel inspiration dot blogspot dot com

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49 out of 55 people found the following review useful:

Sorry Seinfeld ... the Real Bee Movie

7/10
Author: David Ferguson (fergusontx@gmail.com) from Dallas, Texas
27 October 2008

Greetings again from the darkness. Having not read Sue Monk Kidd's novel, I was expecting a sappy, soulless, chick flick that would have me rolling my eyes for a couple of hours. Instead, director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball) delivers a very engaging film with a message and some very strong performances.

Dakota Fanning plays Lily, who accidentally killed her mother at four, and has since lived with her white trash, redneck despicable father (Paul Bettany). Lily and her nanny Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) runoff to some small town dot on a map thanks to a clue Lily's mom left on one of her few remaining personal items. They arrive at the home/business of August, June and May Boatright (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sopie Okonedo) who harvest and bottle the best honey in town. What follows is a smörgåsbord of odd family life that slowly gives hope to young Lily.

Based in 1964, the film dips its toe into the Civil Rights Act and the ongoing racism of the south, but focuses more on the strength of love and family ... even in a Pepto Bismol home! The performances are all very strong but three standouts are Dakota Fanning, Paul Bettany and Sophie Okonedo.

Ms. Fanning is now 14 years old and she delivers a remarkable performance ... and what feels like the first where her screaming skills aren't overused (War of the Worlds, Man on Fire). She strikes me as a young Jodie Foster ... one who has just transitioned from child actor to real actress. I can't wait to see where her career takes her. Mr. Bettany is such a shock here as he typically plays a well dressed, under-spoken Brit (which is what he is in real life!). As a southern redneck whose bitterness rages against the world, he not only pulls it off, but manages to make grits seem even worse than I previously thought. Ms. Okonedo (so amazing in Hotel Rwanda) pulls off the always difficult task of making a "special" adult seem very real and vital. A most touching performance from a top notch talent.

This is a good story with strong performances, though to take the next step as a film, it needed to dig a little deeper into its wide range of characters and settings. Still, definitely worth seeing.

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35 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

Open your heart and the Bees will fill it with honey

10/10
Author: nottoman from United States
31 October 2008

I don't go around throwing 10's around for movie ratings, but I extremely impressed by this movie. The emotional and visual scope offered by the story, the cinematography, and the acting, gave all viewers with eyes to see and ears to hear, a wonderful treat. I'm sure not everyone loves this particular type of movie, but if you haven't been desensitized by the CGI and special effects of many of today's movies, you'll appreciate the very core of this movie, which is the human struggle - especially the depiction of the search for identity, and the need to give and received compassion from those living on this big blue marble together with us. A reminder of the racism of a not too far distant time, and the timeless theme of love, death, friendship, and compassion, add the effective seasoning that helps us all relate in some very tangible way to this movie. Enjoy it with someone you care about, and taste the honey.

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28 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Superb dramatic movie making.

9/10
Author: Steve Roehr (skroehr) from United States
26 October 2008

These are cynical times, and the U.S. is still struggling with it's feelings on race, even today. The more of these types of movies, the better. Simple human love comes through in every frame. After a summer of superheroes and sex humor comedies, this was the most life affirming and refreshing film I've seen so far this year. If the academy doesn't recognize some folks from this film, they'd be remiss. I smell Oscar all over this film. Queen Latifah was wonderful as usual. Sophie Okonedo played an emotionally damaged woman with perfect pitch and demeanor. Paul Bettany's performance of the alternately hurt and hurtful father was a challenge. You needed to both hate him, and sympathize with him for the role to be effective, and I thought he pulled this off well. Just simply a moving story, a great script, top notch acting, and all beautifully shot. I place it in the must see category.

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28 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Overall great drama!

8/10
Author: tam_burks from United States
17 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Personally I felt the performances were outstanding. Alicia Keyes was wonderful,Queen was the pillar of strength, Hudson proved that her Oscar wasn't a fluke,but most importantly you are able to watch a cute and charming little girl actress give a phenomenal mature performance worthy of Oscar consideration. Dakota Fanning is a delight to watch.I wanted the story to end in a more positive manner.I believe that the end of the movie should have been when all the women are united on the steps with Lily,after her father leaves her behind.It is a very unique story and I believe many will be moved by these incredible talented women,whether black or white. It does have a few slow moments,but the film is intriguing in a way that made you desire to see more.Absolutely some of the most beautiful cinematic shots. Overall a great drama!

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24 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

A Nutshell Review: The Secret Life of Bees

10/10
Author: DICK STEEL from Singapore
30 November 2008

It's been two years since we last saw Dakota Fanning on the big screen here, in a film which was a adaptation of the literary classic Charlotte's Web. And what a career it had been for this child actress, now an adolescent, to have grown from scream queen (no thanks to her stint under Spielberg's War of the Worlds) to one controversial role in Hounddogs, which I doubt would make it to our shores here.

Based on a novel by Sue Monk Kidd and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Secret Life of Bees is one powerful drama above love and the looking for love, as well as running along the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. It's easy to dismiss this as a chick flick because of its predominantly female cast, but that would be a mistake to make in making it an excuse to miss this film altogether. For all its worth, it's chock full of extremely well delivered performances from veterans such as Fanning herself, together with Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson (proving that she's no flash in the pan), Sophie Okonedo, Paul Bettany and even Alicia Keys!

Set in the time of Summer in 1964 Southern USA where the Civil Rights Act was just signed and in effect, the sentiments amongst the racist bigots still run high in a charged environment still hanging onto their old segregated ways. Fanning's Lily Owens carries the weight of her guilt buried deep in her subconscious from a tragic event that happened when she was four, and ten years later, after receiving the last straw of punishment from her abusive dad (Bettany), runs away with her caretaker Rosaleen (Hudson).

As if led by an invisible hand, they soon find themselves under the extreme goodwill of the Boatwright sisters, who earn a living through the cultivation of bees for honey, and a series of incidents that bring about some tying of loose ends, and the discovery that these strangers do tie back to Lily's own quest to finding out the truth about her mom, to debunk the lies as told by her father. And of course this allows opportunity for some serious girl power bonding between the characters as they find that they have a lot more in common, as well as the sharing and spreading of love through their ranks.

The trump card that this movie has, is the excellent performances by the ensemble cast. Fanning leads the pack and gives a wonderful moving performance as the gangling Lily, who thinks that she's quite a jinx with plenty of bad karma to go around, bringing about unfortunate happenings to her hosts which provide the dramatic twists and turns to what would otherwise be a flat movie. Jennifer Hudson had much to do in the first act, though her character got quite muted by the time the trio of the Boatwright sisters August (Latifah), June (Keys) and Okonedo (May) come along. Queen Latifah brings about some serious gravitas in her role as the eldest with the largest heart, and you cannot deny her chemistry with Fanning. Keys on the other hand plays the sister the exact opposite of August, being aloof and starting off with intense suspicion as to the intent of their guests. And Okonedo's role could probably be the most unorthodox of the lot, a fragile soul who has her own wailing wall to deal with the harsh realities of life.

The Secret Life of Bees is well worth the admission ticket, and you'll be hard pressed not to be touched by the film, or moved by the themes it explores, especially when the third act comes by leading to quite a number of powerful revelations and a solid conclusion. Set against its intended backdrop, it's a reminder of tolerance, which the world lacks these days, and of course it's not always hammering in such heavy themes as it has its fair share of romance as well, and for what it's worth, Fanning has her first on-screen romance in this movie, and if I'm right, has her first on-screen kiss as well.

You might be surprised when I say this, but this film has won me over enough for it to be considered as a contender when I shortlist my list of ten top films of the year. Definitely recommended!

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18 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Warm, heartfelt drama.

10/10
Author: sonya90028 from United States
1 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Secret Life Of Bees, is a marvelous new drama. It's focus is 13-year-old Lily Owens (played with a deft emotional range, by Dakota Fanning). The film takes place in 1964 in the southern US, during the birth of the civil rights movement.

Lily is haunted by the fact that she accidentally shot her mother, when playing with a pistol as a toddler. She also develops a strange affinity for bees, which is bewildering to her. Lily's violent father is abusive towards her. The Owen's black housekeeper Rosaleen, is a mother figure and confidante to Lily.

One day, Lily goes to town with Rosaleen, when Rosaleen plans on registering to vote. Racist white men confront them, taunting Rosaleen. When Rosaleen refuses to tolerate their behavior, the men give her a vicious beating. The police soon intervene. Rosaleen is arrested, and held in custody at the medical ward of the local jail.

Outraged at what happened to Rosaleen, Lily goes to the jail and frees Rosaleen, before the guards find out. Lily and Rosaleen then hit the road, leaving Lily's brutal father far behind. The two come upon a store in a small town, which stocks jars of honey. Intrigued with the unusual labeling on the honey jars, Lily asks the clerk where the honey comes from. She's told that the Boatwright sisters make the honey.

Lily then asks the clerk, where they can find the Boatwright sisters. And she's told that they reside in a huge, 'bright pink' house, a 'ways up the road'. So, Lily feels strangely compelled to find the Boatwrights, for reasons that she doesn't quite understand.

After traveling a long way, Lily and Rosaleen spot a bright pink house, in a remote area. Tired, hungry and needing shelter, they knock on the door of this house. The three women who answer introduce themselves as the Boatwright sisters, named May, June, and August.

At first, the Boatwrights are reluctant to take in Lily and Rosaleen. They relent, when they realize that the two have no where else to turn. August, the eldest sister, lets Lily become their beekeeping apprentice. Rosaleen is allowed to stay on as the Boatwright's housekeeper. While living with the Boatwrights, Lily unravels the mysteries of her dead mother. Much to her astonishment, Lily discovers how the Boatwrights are deeply involved in her mother's past.

Above all, this film celebrates love, and its power to transform human lives in amazing ways. The brilliant performances by the female leads, make this movie the gem that it truly is. Films with strong, positive women in leading roles, are still not as common as they should be. The Secret Life Of Bees, is a powerful film that's heartrending, uplifting, and a definite must-see.

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21 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

The Secret Life Of Bees is a powerful, amazing & excellent film followed by strong performances.

9/10
Author: michael11391 from Augusta, Ga
27 October 2008

Let me just say that the movie NEVER had dull moment or even a second in the ENTIRE film!!! Set in South Carolina 1964, Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) who is haunted by the memory of her late mother, tries to escape her lonely life and bad relationship with her father (Paul Bettany), to get past her horrible incident with her late mother. So, she and her caregiver Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) flees to a South Carolina town where it holds the secret of her mother's past. Lily and Rosaleen finds the intelligent Boatwright sisters: August (Queen Latifah), June (Alicia Keys and May (Sophie Okenendo) where they take Lily and Rosaleen in, to have a place to stay for a while.

The Secret Life Of Bees is a movie of what you call a "tearjerker" and that's what it is, the movie will touch your heart and teaches you about life, care, love & forget about your horrible past and move on. As for performances, everyone delivers and a couple of Oscar-worthy ones too. Dakota Fanning and Sophie Okenendo are the ones that delivers the Oscar-worthy performances. Come Oscars season, don't be surprised if any of those both actresses will be in the envelope (they deserved to get those nods!!) Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson (R.I.P her brother and mother who just passed away one day ago.) delivered their best performances yet even Jennifer (I thought this was her best performance yet and better than ever Oscar-winning performance in Dreamgirls.). As for the supporting actors: Bettany, Parker and Wilds, they did great as well.

The Secret Life Of Bees is one of this year's best films, rush out and buy a ticket for this wonderful and amazing film!!

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