the fresh films reviews

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The Secret Life of Bees (2008)

Gina Prince-Blythewood
Bienes hemmelige liv
110 minutes
James Lassiter
Ewan Leslie
Joe Pichirallo
Lauren Shuler Donner
Will Smith
Screenwriter (based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd):
Gina Prince-Blythewood

Cast includes:

Lily Owens Dakota Fanning
August Boatwright Queen Latifah
Rosaleen Davis Jennifer Hudson
June Boatwright Alicia Keys
May Boatwright Sophie Okonedo
T. Ray Owens Paul Bettany
Zach Taylor Tristan Wilds
Neil Nate Parker



After watching The Secret Life of Bees, the first thing I did was to go into my kitchen and make myself a brunost and honey sandwich. So to say that the film didn't make an impact on me, would be wrong. Then again, I did the same thing after watching Ulee's Gold, which was a film I rated highly, so I'm not going to make my munches become any sort of gauge here.

It's not that The Secret Life of Bees is a feminist picture in which all the guys need to acknowledge whose tune they're dancing to in order to find peace and get sympathy (if it were, I wouldn't been able to hail Little Women). And it's not really about the fact that this story and film is inherently and blatantly saccharine. What I won't excuse, however, are films which in such a self-satisfied and bloated manner as this one, are aiming to show you how magical life can be (on the big screen). Of course, all problems in the South States of the 1960s would have been solved if only cute and wretched little white girls would run away to live with the most independent, sophisticated, caring and understanding black sisterhood ever to grace the outsides of a convent.

Dakota Fanning steps up from child roles and does as well as she can with the material she has at her disposal here, and the film has value in the scenes Fanning share with Queen Latifah working the bees. Unfortunately, director Gina Prince-Bythewood knows no limits to the amount of colour and warmth she smears onto her dazzling canvas. And the personal and inner strength she lets her characters boast are so overwhelming that they are more repulsive than inspirational.

The supporting acting ranges from middle of the road (Okonedo, Wilds) to appalling (Hudson, Keys), but what they all have in common, is that they create characters which feel very much like, simply, characters. Their way with words and their ultimate insight into every interpersonal detail surrounding them makes them spurious and unfascinating. As exhibit Z, I advise you all to take a look at Prince-Blythewood's milking of the facial expressions of Latifah, Hudson and Keys standing on the porch looking at Fanning in one of the film's final scenes. To me, that is certainly not what filmmaking or drama is about.


Copyright 11.2.2009 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang