Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Empire's New Tom Cruise Cover
The Jameson Empire Awards 2014
Vote: The Greatest 301 Movies Of All Time!
Rebecca Hall:
My Movie Life

The actress picks the movies that shaped her
Mountain Dew Green Screen
Register Now to see X-MEN First Class!
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
The Secret Life Of Bees

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Dakota Fanning
Queen Latifah
Jennifer Hudson
Sophie Okonedo
Paul Bettany
Alicia Keys.
Directors
Gina Prince-Blythewood.
Screenwriters
Running Time
109 mins. minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
An Episode In The Life Of An Iron Picker
4 Star Empire Rating
Cupcakes
3 Star Empire Rating
You & Me Forever
4 Star Empire Rating
Looking For Light: Jane Brown
3 Star Empire Rating
Informant, The
2 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Rebel Without A Cause
5 Star Empire Rating
Calvary
5 Star Empire Rating
Wake In Fright
5 Star Empire Rating
Stranger By The Lake
5 Star Empire Rating
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
5 Star Empire Rating

The Secret Life Of Bees
A timely update of the 1962 classic The Inner Thoughts Of Wasps


submit to reddit


Plot
South Carolina, 1964. Haunted by the death of her mother, 14 year-old Lily (Fanning) seeks solace with her housekeeper Rosaleen (Hudson). When the pair go on the run after Rosaleen is racially attacked, they find refuge with the bee-keeping Boatwright sisters...


Review
The Secret Life Of Bees

Gina Prince-Blythewood's first feature for eight years (after 2000’s Love & Basketball) boasts several encouraging ingredients for a quality drama. Adapted by Prince-Blythewood from Sue Monk Kidd’s acclaimed 2002 novel and with a talented cast, this is certainly a film you’d have confidence in. It’s just a shame, then, that it seems confidence is one thing Prince-Blythewood found wanting when it came to actually making her movie.

Kidd’s novel is a beguiling work, suffused in the sultry heat of a South Carolina summer in the early 1960s, even as it addresses harsh themes of violent racism, child abuse and terrible loss. The volatility stirred up by the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, steers the story arc, as 14 year-old Lily (here played by Dakota Fanning) and confidante Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) find themselves on the run after an ugly clash between the latter and a collection of white bigots, finding safety in the home of a family of black sisters, the Boatwrights — an eccentric, inspiring bunch who operate as a self-supporting unit as harmonious as the beehives from which they derive their living.

As will now have become clear, it’s a tale full of symbolism — but where this worked effectively in Kidd’s novel, lending a fairy-tale feel to the piece, there’s a clunkiness to it here. This is underlined by characters who, while vibrant, somewhat tick the boxes. Queen Latifah in particular is underused, her matriarchal August given little to do except smile beatifically while dispensing doses of homespun wisdom — washed down with a spoonful of honey, of course. Alicia Keys, meanwhile, is the spiky sister who refuses to succumb to a ‘woman’s lot’, and Tristan Wilds the studious kid who dreams of being a lawyer instead of the clichéd football player.

But rather than give her cast the chance to act, to make these people live, too often Prince-Blythewood cuts abruptly to another montage set to another insipid MOR ballad, sacrificing subtlety to blunt sentiment. It’s a pity, as what could have been a thoughtful interweaving of two stories — the wider social moment when America’s black population started to emerge, and one little girl’s painful struggle to find herself and her place — instead plays like a Movie Of The Week.


Verdict
The source material remains affecting and the cast work hard to add dimension to a lacklustre screenplay. But sadly, it adds up to less than the sum of its parts.


Reviewed by Liz Beardsworth

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Secret Life Of Bees
Empire Star Rating

Pretty good

Agree with Empire's review but it's still a decent film and Fanning is as brilliant as usual. A bit sentimental in places though ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 20:40, 17 August 2009 | Report This Post


RE:

Really liked this movie, had read the book first and loved it. Characters were well cast and the acting was good by all involved. Two stars isn't right, deserves more than that. ... More

Posted by Newander at 21:38, 24 June 2009 | Report This Post


Only two stars?... Come on! This a good movie. Not perfect but simply sweet and definetly worth of watching. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ARmy2510 at 23:20, 21 June 2009 | Report This Post



CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Making Of Locke: A Filmmaker's Journey
Steven Knight takes us through six pitstops (via Heston Services)

The 10 Most Exciting Movies At Cannes 2014
Empire's pick of the Croisette's finest

Tom Hardy: A Viewer's Guide
The essential, the recommended, the one for the fans... and the one to avoid

Ten Things To Know About The Spooks Movie
Under the hood of The Greater Good

Who’s In Spider-Man’s Sinister Six?
A bluffer’s guide to the planned spin-off from the Amazing Spider-films

14 YouTube Videos Every Game Of Thrones Fan Should Have Watched By Now
From goats singing the theme tune to every death in under three minutes

Hollywood's Biggest Names On Their Favourite Films
Stars and directors like Nolan, Whedon, Wright and Ford on the films that inspire them

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get Limited Edition Collectable X-Men Art Cards

Subscribe today and get 6 issues of Empire plus a set of collectable X-Men Art Cards for only £20!

Subscribe today

Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Just £25
Receive limited edition subscribers-only covers every month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)