Saturday, October 25, 2008

"The Secret Life of Bees" (2008) - Movie Review

It is a breath of fresh air to see Dakota Fanning as a teenage girl rather than an over matured emotionally stale young girl which she was slowly getting type casted into. But the film is not such. Like driving in a country road, having some neatly put smoothening spots to believe the characteristics to continue only to be merged back again into the bumps and pot holes. It has the themes of racism at the dawn of the Civil Rights Act in the 60s, the beauty of hot summer in the country, blossoming love for a young teenage girl towards an African American boy and the quest for finding the past of her mother are to be seen as a display of goody images of emotions if not deep and real.

As a four year old girl Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) accidentally pulls the trigger to cause her mother’s death when she is to pack her things up and quarrelling with Lily’s father T. Ray (Paul Bettany). Ray apart from showing no affection punishes Lily now fourteen unreasonably. The blurred images of her mother have put thoughts and doubts over the affection she never got. Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) an African American takes care of Lily and who is also proud to go and register for voting. In a spite caused by the racist town men, Rosaleen is wrongfully arrested and having not to put up with her father’s lies about her mother, Lily gathers Rosaleen to flee to the town pointed by the left behinds of her mother. There they find residence in a house of three sisters August (Queen Latifah), June (Alicia Keys) and May (Sophie Okonedo) who are the owners of a “Black Madonna Honey”.

For reasons not said in the beginning, August trusts the obviously flawed story of Lily to admit both of them to stay and help in their house; it becomes an exhibition of harmony. It is all flowery and fogs and bright sunshine lighting up the faces of these young women to celebrate this sudden entry of these two people. I firmly believe in those moments of happiness and in fact those are the moment which makes a life of togetherness a life to work hard for. But what is displayed in the film is a boasting of it slightly over the top. It is more than a fairy tale in a film trying to project a reality of the life. In simple words it was not genuine.

But “The Secret Life of Bees” has casts which take it out from the slumps and makes it to sail through. Fanning would be one who happen to have taken the right transition suiting her age and bring a controlled maturity much needed for the Lily. In films I have seen after “I am Sam”, she in her many brilliant roles as child star laughed differently. There was a hint of falsified performance which has completely disappeared in this film. It would only be a matter of time before there will be challenging roles done by her with ease and perfection.

It is painful to see the theatres been guarded and attacked the mingling of white and black people. While it is not painful to see the emotionally fragile May who has developed a wailing wall for herself to go and vent out her sorrow to the fullest in chits and tears. The tragedy should not be disgraced but her character of absorbing the sorrow of every individual in pain to cry her hearts out did not appeal me.

I can see the togetherness achieved through the solace developed through the Black Madonna. I can also see the pride of being the community hard fought and emerged out of the segregation and the tortures of the society. But I could not understand is the emotional extremities of the film. One moment every body is bathing in the wells of joy and in the next moment it is the sorrow sister mourning on.

Queen Latifah’s August showed different faces with and without Fanning around. The scenes with her and Fanning are the best in the film. She became this person of August being that guardian angel and explaining the life and love as it would sink in for a teenage girl looking out for both of those. I would have also liked to have seen Bettany’s Ray develop into something more. I guess I wanted a little more of reality and a little less of the hallmark moments to get the actual gist of the film.

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