After residing on the New York Times best seller list, Sue Monk Kidd's beloved novel now moves to the silver screen. The real shame about "The Secret Life of Bees" is that it tries so very, very hard to hit all its marks.
But while Kidd's understated writing style provided her angst-ridden characters room to breathe, director Gina Prince-Bythewood 's script forces the same characters through their paces at breakneck speed, never allowing a moment for reflection, much less an opportunity for anyone to break from their predetermined function.
Dakota Fanning (looking startlingly and suddenly like a teenager) plays Lily, a lonely budding writer whose life is defined by two realities: She's pretty sure she killed her own mother, who may or may not have loved her. When events in their small South Carolina town threaten them both, Lily and Rosaleen, her one-time nanny (Jennifer Hudson), strike out for Tiburon, where Lily suspects she may find clues to her mother's mysterious life.
Kidd's novel didn't shy from casting these women as archetypes, but the movie doesn't cast as much as it straitjackets. This set-up -- four black women caring for one white child -- has the potential to be, shall we say, icky. When the real suffering starts, you may find yourself thinking things can't get much worse for these people.

Starring Queen Latifah and Dakota Fanning, The Secret Life of Bees is the moving tale of Lily Owens, a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother.
Chicago Tribune Film Critic Michael Phillips Tasha Robinson Robert Abele serves up his latest movie reviews on video. Dakota Fanning, Paul Bettany, Hilarie Burton, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Tristan Wilds, Nate Parker, Sophie Okonedo, Shondrella Avery Plot: Set in South Carolina in 1964, the film is the moving tale of Lily Owens a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. Lily lives with her emotionally distant father, and her best friend is their African-American housekeeper Rosaleen.
Set in 1964 South Carolina, THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES follows Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning), a young teenager whose mother died and whose distant father (Paul Bettany) seems nearly as far away.
And her father (Paul Bettany, doing a very convincing impression of an angry, devastated man who has lost everything, including at least some of his mind) wants nothing to do with her. Like the book, the movie does what it can to acknowledge and defuse this tension (Keys delivers several bracingly candid lines). To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father, Lily flees with Rosaleen, her caregiver and only friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother's past.

But unlike Kidd's work, the film is too beholden to advancing the plot line -- and preparing for the looming emotional tsunami -- to allow most of its characters to advance beyond caricatures.
Taken in by the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters, Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping, honey and the Black Madonna. If you ever want to get a current (and more secure) browser, we recommend Google Chrome or Firefox. The unlikely pair escapes to a town where they stay with the Boatwright sisters (Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo, and Alicia Keys), who show Lily the wonders of beekeeping.

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