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The Secret Life of Bees

A throwback, coming-of-age film
By JENNY HALPER  |  October 16, 2008
3.0 3.0 Stars

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Call it Southern comfort to Hounddog’s uneven Southern Gothic. And I mean that as a compliment: The Secret Life of Bees is a throwback to My Girl, when coming-of-age films didn’t shy away from sentimentality or rely on drugs and bared breasts. Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) turns 14 in 1964 South Carolina, where the Constitution gives way to Jim Crow and Lily’s maid, Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson), is locked up for spitting on a white man. Lily helps Rosaleen escape; she herself is fleeing her brutal father (Paul Bettany). Oh and Lily accidentally killed her mother when she was four years old. Writer/director Gina Prince-Blythewood avoids manipulation in adapting Sue Monk Kidd’s 2002 novel, and Queen Latifah, Alicia Keyes, and Sophie Okonedo are memorable as honeymakers who welcome the duo with Motown and pancakes. But the real heroine is Fanning, an actress capable of conveying guilt, nerves, and idealism all at once. No small feat. 101 minutes | Boston Common + Fenway + Fresh Pond + Chestnut Hill + Suburbs
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