17bees-1xlarge1I loved Sue Monk Kidd’s book and I’ve been looking forward to this movie. I wasn’t disappointed at all.

For me, a good book will fuel my imagination so I can “see” what the people look like, picture the setting, feel their emotions, step into their shoes and become a part of the story. A good movie based on a book I’ve read, should fill in the blanks and expand on that. I want the movie to make me say, “Oh, that’s what the house looks like” or “That’s exactly how I thought he would look”. This movie, The Secret Life of Bees, took the book to the next level.

This is the story of a 14-year-old girl, Lily Owens, played by Dakota Fanning.  It’s set in South Carolina in 1964. Lily lives with her abusive, peach-farming father, T-Ray (Paul Bettany). Her mother died ten years earlier and Lily is allowed to believe she caused her death. But Lily has a deep longing to know about her mother. All she wants for her birthday is for T-Ray to tell her about her mother. But he refuses. Lily has a few mementos of her mother which she keeps hidden. One is a picture of a black Madonna with the word Tiburon on the back.

The other important figure in Lily’s life is her black nanny and friend, Rosaleen Daise (Jennifer Hudson). Rosaleen finds herself locked up in a hospital after she pours a cup of snuff on the shoes of a white racist, is arrested and beaten in her jail cell. Lily sneaks in and gets her out and then they both run out of town. Armed with the picture of the black Madonna, Lily and Rosaleen head for Tiburon, South Carolina. Lily hopes to find out anything she can about her mother.

In Tiburon Lily spots a jar of honey with the same picture of the black Madonna on it and learns it belongs to a local beekeeper. They head for the honey farm. Here they meet the Boatwright women: August (Queen Latifah), June (Alicia Keys) and May (Sophie Okonedo). From this point on, life changes for Lily and Rosaleen. 

When Lily and Rosleem walk into the Boatwright house you can see the amazement in their eyes. The contrast between the shabbiness of the peach farmhouse and the richness of the honey farmhouse sets the tone for the rest of the story. The Boatwright house is inviting, comfortable, full of color and decorated with love from the pictures on the wall to the doilies on the chairs. The Boatwright women are also inviting and full of love.

Lily and Rosaleen are invited to stay out in the extraction barn. Lily earns her keep by helping August with the bees. She learns more than just how to extract honey. Life at the honey farm is not perfect. The realities of racism in 1964 and the personal problems of the women are examined. It’s not exactly a “happily ever after” film. But Lily does learn about her mother in turn about herself.

I’ve read reviews that suggest this is a movie just for women. I don’t think so. There are no car chases. And yes it is a story is about the desire to connect and be loved.  But those are universal, human conditions. Plus the music in fantastic and the acting is excellent. I’d recommend it for teens and adults. You can see the trailer here: http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1809981027/trailer Then go see the whole movie and let me know what you think.