Secret Life of Bees, The

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: -4

Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo, Nate Parker, Tristan Wilds, Hilarie Burton and Paul Bettany. Drama. Written & directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Based on the New York Times best-selling novel and set in South Carolina in 1964, it is the moving tale of Lily Owens (Fanning) a 14-year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother (Burton). To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her abusive father (Bettany), Lily flees with Rosaleen (Hudson), 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 (Latifah, Okonedo and Keys), Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping.

PREVIEW REVIEW:. At times the film is difficult to view, as we are submitted to hostile bigotry towards blacks and Lily's own troubled home life that consists of her accidentally shooting her mother and having to live with an unfeeling father (he punishes her for everything by having her kneel on uncooked grits). But there is a wonder to the film, a gentile loving and forgiving kindness that is personified by Queen Latifah's August Boatwright (no relation to your humble critic though any family would be enriched to have a person of such generous spirit a part of their kith and kin).

I've never really been a big fan of Dakota Fanning, but there is no escaping it, she somehow channels the same energe Elizabeth Taylor (National Velvet) demonstrated as a child actress. Like Ms. Taylor, it's almost an assured bet that Dakota Fanning will continue to bring a depth and vivaciousness to her characters as she matures. Here she gives a touching, insightful performance. And Ms. Latifah keeps right in pace with the child actress, giving a nuanced uplifting performance. She calls upon her real-life Christian faith to bring a sincere spiritual relativity to the role, giving one of her best screen performances.

There is, however, a fly in the honey. To reveal the dark nature of Lily's oppressive father, both screenwriter and actor incorporate much profanity. The character utters God's name followed by a curse at least 10 times. And he doesn't show a lot of respect for Christ, either. If you heard this kind of language once in a great while, it might be profound in revealing a negative character. But I'm having a difficult time finding any film, no matter its nature or genre, where such irreverence for our Creator is not used. Therefore, it is not a creative use of language, just a familiar one. And though God is not yet reigning down fire and brimstone upon such abusers, I'm sure it is displeasing to Him.

Though The Secret Life of Bees is a tenderhearted movie, one that examines the need for forgiveness and finding your way, but the misuse of God's name is just too abundant to be overlooked. You may wish to try the following DVD alternative to get the same messages: To Kill a Mockingbird. Horton Foote's winning screenplay of the Harper Lee novel about rural life, justice, honor and bigotry as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl.

Preview Reviewer: PHIl Boatwright
Fox Searchlight

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Bigoted Whites are physically and vocally abusive to Blacks on several occasions.

Obscene Language: Four or five obscenities and around 10 uses of the N-word.

Profanity: At least 10 profane uses of Gods name or His Sons.

Violence: At the opening of the film, an abusive husband is harming his wife; a gun is involved and a little child accidentally shoots her mother; the father is harsh with his daughter, not sexually, but physically abusive, slapping her and pushing her; bigots harass a Black woman because she is with a White girl; there are several examples of this type of hatred but the film is about forgiveness and understanding, so there are some positive messages to offset the hatred and ignorance; a suicide is committed by a supporting, and well-liked character. Blood: Some blood and scarring when a Black woman is beaten by rednecks this was a very difficult scene to sit through.

Sex: Some kissing between two people in love.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: The abusive father is also a drunk, so whatever drinking is done, it is shown in a bad light.

Other: Though the film displays some spirituality, the sisters pray to a statue they refer to as the Virgin Mary.

Running Time: 111 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and adults

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