Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo, Paul Bettany, Hilarie Burton, Tristan Wilds, Nate Parker, Shondrella Avery Renée Clark, Sharon Morris, Nicky Buggs, Jasmine Burke
Written by: Gina Prince-Bythewood, based on a novel by Sue Monk Kidd
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material and some violence
Running Time: 110
Date: 09/05/2008

The Secret Life of Bees (2008)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Honey Child

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 1964 a young white girl (Dakota Fanning) escapes her violent, hateful, redneck father (Paul Bettany) and hides out with three African-American sisters (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo), who make honey for a living. Based Sue Monk Kidd's 2002 novel, this has the benefit of a mostly female, mostly black cast, which is then almost entirely squandered. Writer and director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball) keeps the cast locked into character descriptions, rather than characters; it plays more according to calculations than feelings. The film lurches from terrible tragedy to happy montage and back again, never attempting to rise above a typical weepie. But the formula sometimes works, and the actors' charm makes certain moments successful. Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson co-stars.

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