The Secret Life of Bees | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Secret Life of Bees

Uplifting film about family, women, bees

In Gina Prince-Bythewood's adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's novel set in 1964, a troubled 14-year-old named Lily (limpid-eyed Dakota Fanning) and her threatened African-American caretaker (Jennifer Hudson) find refuge among a slightly eccentric set of sisters in South Carolina, a bee-keeping trio (portrayed by Queen Latifah, Alicia Keyes and Sophie Okonedo). Good -- and bad -- events unfold in this domestic melodrama, and ultimately, most characters get changed for the better. While not shying away from racial tensions and related violence, the film does have a golden sepia tone, and too many characters speak in wise epigrams. Though we agree that Life should be like this, there is a distinct whiff of wish-fulfillment about the film's cross-cultural nurturing sisterhood. The uplifting story is a great venue for Latifah's warm screen presence, and the unhappy-but-feisty teen role suits Fanning, transitioning seamlessly from child actress. But it is Okonedo who steals the film, as the sweetly sad sister, whose thankless role it seems, is to absorb all the tale's suffering. (AH)