A quad of high wattage women—Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys—headline The Secret Life of Bees, based on Sue Monk Kidd’s New York Times best-selling and Orange Prize-winning novel of the same name. Not surprisingly, given these estrogen-heavy marquee credits, this one is begging to be taken in on girl’s night out—but only if your lady friends aren’t looking for a lighthearted evening. This one’s more of the cathartic weeper variety.
Lily Owens, played by a newly minted tween Fanning, is a young girl with an abusive father and a deceased mother who runs away from her family’s peach farm with her caretaker Rosaleen. Rosaleen’s not had an easy time of it herself; it’s 1964, and she’s recently had a run-in with their South Carolina town’s most racist inhabitants. When the duo head to Lily’s mother’s hometown in search of some sense of family, they’re taken in by a trio of estranged sisters who live on a honey farm. In short, bring a hankie for this mix of drama and joy—the perfect film if, like Dolly Parton’s character in Steel Magnolias, "Laughter through tears is your favorite emotion." The soulful soundtrack and trailer clip tunes crescendos and valleys, much of them provided by the movie’s headliners, isn’t going to be of much help in keeping the waterworks in check either.
It’s also a good option for families, providing a great opener for dialogue about tough subjects like abuse and race. The topics are strong, and the look is unsquinting though, so it’s best saved for young teens and above.
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