Thursday, November 6, 2008

Secret Life of Bees

One of the best books I've ever read was The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Recently, my book club read it. Then a few of us went to see the movie.

I loved it. I grew up reading stories by Sue Monk Kidd. She wrote for Guidepost magazine and a few "women's magazines." As I grew older, I grew to recognize her name and I always enjoyed reading what she wrote.

Usually, I feel that the book is better than the movie. Usually, I feel the book is much better than the movie. It is difficult to make a call this time. This movie, in my opinion, is outstanding.

Queen Latifah plays August Boatwright. Her sister May (who grieves the loss of her twin, April and is sensitive to the pain of the world) is played by Sophie Okonedo. Jennifer Hudson plays Lily's caregiver and Lily's father's housekeeper, Rosaleen, and looks quite different than she did in this movie (you are still beautiful even without the make-up, Jennifer). Paul Bettany is convincing as Lily's evil father, T.Ray Owens. (Is it just me or does he always play an evil character?)He does a good job of being bad- I hated him. The only glance we get of him having any heart at all is when Rosaleen tells him that she is taking Lily into town to buy a training bra. Another Boatwright sister, June, is played by Alicia Keys. (And can this sister give a look.) Lily is played by Dakota Fanning.

The movie was filmed in North Carolina. I've been there many a time and that state is just as lovely in person as on the big screen. The story is supposed to take place in Tiburon, South Carolina.

Lily (flees (with Rosaleen in tow) to Tiburon to escape from her father and in search of answers about her mother, who is deceased. In one scene, Lily's father punishes her by using grits poured on the floor, making Lily "stand" on them with her bare knees. I found this to be an interesting portion of the story. Was this really a punishment in those days or something that someone else created? If anyone else has ever heard of this, I would love to hear from you.

August takes Lily in as her "bee apprentice," teaching her all about bees and honey making. This is one part of the story in which the movie disappointed me. While reading the book, the reader learns a lot of interesting facts about honey bees which endears one to the bee. The movie doesn't dwell upon many bee facts.

The honey is bottled under the label of the Black Madonna. This is another story which I haven't researched to know if there was ever was a Black Madonna or not. The faith that the Boatwright sisters have is touching and affects every one's lives that they come into contact with.

While watching this movie, I saw a remarkable resemblance between Fanning and my daughter at that age. I never wanted my daughter to be conceited or overly vain, so I never dwelled upon how beautiful I thought she was, but she was (and is) a beauty. A natural beauty. Fanning has that same beautiful hair, like wheat glistening in the sun. I used to tease my daughter and tell her that the color of her hair was somewhere between mouse-brown and dishwater-blonde. In truth, it glistened and was such a beautiful color. Fanning has the same cut to her jaw and the same thin arms. There is a scene where Fanning sits down onto the floor and she is all legs, gangly and long, they are on the floor before her and once again I was struck by how much she reminded me of Laura at at that age. Fanning is beautiful in a way that Laura used to describe as "before a girl is socialized." Which means "before a girl is socialized into bowing to societal expectations" of things like having your hair combed or neat and tidy or looking into the mirror and worrying about whether or not your appearance is just so.

Beautiful, earnest, honest. No hidden agenda. Totally expecting and believing to be treated well and loved and heart broken when that doesn't happen. Searching for answers about the missing component of her life - her mother's presence and any information about her.
I cried through about half of this movie. I cried until I had a headache. And, I loved it.
Nate Parker plays June's gorgeous boyfriend, Neil. He looks just like my friend Patrick. Tristan Wilds plays Zachary Taylor and the scene where he dips his finger into the purple honey to give Lily a taste is titillating in an innocent, young love sort of way.
Racial issues are a strong and ever present theme throughout the movie. In 1964 I was six. I am very thankful that we have now progressed to the point of voting in an African American for our President-elect.
Run. To. See. This. Movie! That is my "buzz."


Jen@The Cottage Nest said...

Oh, I really want to see it! Maybe when I get back in town I will sneak away and see it if it's still playing around here. It is my all time favorite book and my 15 y.o is reading it now and enjoying it too.

Whosyergurl said...

aw, how wonderful to share that with your daughter! I always love to share a book with my daughter and/or son. My son is 21 & I've tried to get him to read Secret Life. I know he would like it. He is in college so with all of his studying, he doesn't have time. :-(

Mrs. Staggs said...

Well, you know that the book was one of my favorites, and I did enjoy the movie. I think that Lilly, May, and T Ray were perfectly cast. Everyone else seemed a little bit younger than I pictured in the book. I always pictured August as older, and softer somehow, but in a very wise way.

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