The cast is uniformly solid, but the script doesn’t serve them well.  Whether the characters are noble or hateful they’re also thin and obvious, never allowing for complexity (or when it attempts as much—like with Bettany’s abusive dad—the film feels conflicted, unable to effectively humanize his anger even as it tries to). 

Latifah, Fanning and Hudson invest their talents with passion, admirably—and as the slow-witted May, Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) elevates the role’s required theatrics with innocence and sincerity.  Even Alicia Keys reveals a strong screen presence as June; unfortunately, it’s the film’s most under-written role.  No motivation is established for her non-committal stance to the marriage proposal from an absolutely ideal boyfriend, nor is any provided for her predictable turnaround. 

Well-crafted and heartfelt, The Secret Life of Bees isn’t without its merits, and its themes (strength found in feminine unity; forgiveness is an ongoing process, not a single act, etc.) are nurturing concepts.  Unfortunately at the end of it all, the film has nothing new to say nor found a new way to say it.  It’s more boring than bad.  Still, while this film may not be for most, if you consider yourself part of Oprah’s target audience then gather up your girlfriends because this may be the emotional diversion just for you.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  None.
  • Language/Profanity:  Occasional profanities of a wide variety but not constant.  The “a”, “b”, “d”, “h” and “s” words, along with a few examples of taking the Lord’s name in vain.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Kissing between teenagers, but in line with a “first kiss” kind of moments; innocent and tender.  One licks honey off the finger of the other, but it ends up being more of an awkward moment rather than sensual.  A mildly phallic-looking desert, mildly suggested (reference would go over the heads of the young and unsophisticated).
  • Violence/Other:  A husband attacks a wife as she tries to escape.  A young girl accidentally shoots her mother (not visually graphic).  Racial violence; white men attack a black woman in public and beat her.  Overall racial tension; scenes of verbal abuse, including between parent and child.  An intentional drowning/suicide (just the results seen, not the act).


Jeffrey Huston is a film director, writer and producer at Steelehouse Productions in Tulsa, Okla.  He is also cohost of the "Steelehouse Podcast,” along with Steelehouse Executive Creative Mark Steele, where each week they discuss God in pop culture. 

To listen to the weekly podcast, please visit www.steelehouse.com or click here.  You can also subscribe to the "Steelehouse Podcast” through iTunes.