IHAO on ... The Secret Life of Bees - READER REQUEST

Requested by Julia Powell

What is the secret life of bees?  That is what the film's title suggests we will learn.  And if that is the case, then I suppose the secret life of bees is to create a cult in the 1950s that worships a magical black Virgin Mary idol that has haunting red light and causes white women to pass out when they touch it.  Yes, that happens.

Bah, fine Supernatural, continue to ruin my fun, like all of Season 9 has.  Zing!

Ok, sure, that is writing it in a way that is counter to what the film really wants to be about.  And what the film really wants to be about is ... pretty decent.  It is a look at southern life for a white girl (Dakota Fanning) who has a lot of issues because she murdered her mother when she was 4, after her mother ran out on her and her father, and then her father became absolutely abusive.  Well, it isn't REALLY about that.  That's our protagonist/audience proxy's story.  The REAL story that this is about is the civil rights movement, how blacks are treated, and what really happens when a white devil girl magically goes to the same place her mother went to by sure luck when her mother was young, and now she gets to meet the ageless cult leading Queen Latifah and her months-of-year-named cult members ...

I'm being really harsh on this movie.  And that's because it is really EASY to make fun of.  It isn't really a bad movie at all.  It has some pretty good acting, and some memorable characters.  You can tell that Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, and Jennifer Hudson all thought they were going to be in for Oscar nods for actress, and Paul Bettany as easily the best written and most complicated character in the abusive father.  But then you have the clunky script that strips all the stakes away once our character reach magical Black Madonna Bee Farm.  Oh, and there's a whole subplot about a black boy that Dakota Fanning likes who is kidnapped and beaten, but is found with a little bit of light makeup on him a little later.  But his kidnapping ... no, actually, lying about it by omission to the incredibly sensitive and probably autistic sister sends the sister to kill herself so she can go to heaven ... except the Christianity that everyone believes in the film is Catholic, so May is in hell for suicide ...

The movie is jumbled, is what I'm saying.  It does not have a strong hand on the tiller, i.e., the director isn't very good.  And a quick look on imdb shows that the director, Gina Prince-Bythewood also wrote the script, which does not surprise.  The movie comes across like she knew a lot about civil rights era South Carolina, saw Forest Gump, and wanted to make a movie vaguely similar to it.  If you had a hard time guessing, she has only written one other film before, Love & Basketball.  And a few shorts and episodes here and there, plus a single film coming out this year or next apparently, called Blackbird.  And of course, she directs everything she writes.

The sets are overall mediocre to bad.  The writing is servicable, no worse no better.  But the acting is really superb, again, especially Paul Bettany.  Dakota Fanning's character isn't given much to do, so her trademark little kid charm and snark is replaced with empty faced staring, which is really unfortunate.  But our other female leads all really believed in this film, you can tell, and they acted their hearts out.  I don't enjoy this movie without making fun of it.  And it isn't really very good.  But I enjoyed watching it this time.  We had a drinking game where we drank the worst zero calorie dr. pepper knock off every time someone said "bees" or a word with "bee" in it.  And we riffed over the whole thing.  And I wouldn't take that experience away ever.

Grade: C (technically, C- if I have to watch it straight, and C+ if I get to riff on it the whole time)

No comments:

Post a Comment