In "The Secret Life of Bees," T.Ray(Paul Bettany), a peach farmer in South Carolina in 1964, looks at his 14-year old daughter Lily(Dakota Fanning, who fared better in the criminally misunderstood "Hounddog") with barely held disgust and physically abuses her. While not excusing his actions, it might have something to do with Lily accidentally shooting her mother(Hilarie Burton) during a fight between the couple when she was four. At least, she gets to go out on her birthday with her friend and housekeeper Rosaleen(Jennifer Hudson) who almost starts a riot. Lily rescues her from a hospital and together they escape to a town where August Boatwright(Queen Latifah) lives and runs a successful honey business. She once might have given shelter to Lily's mom and which they now ask for in exchange for work.
While it is impossible to hate a movie as achingly sincere and beautifully shot as "The Secret Life of Bees," it is almost as hard to admire it, either. The movie has a tendency to sugarcoat history and several of the characters' actions are born of pure naivete.(Yes, it is okay to be angry, as long as it does not lead to violence.) For example, it was not until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act was passed that would make it easier for Rosaleen to register to vote. On a more personal level, nobody is willing to associate Lily with being a walking disaster area, someone who is going to be very troubled for most of her life. And we definitely need a moratorium on characters who want to be writers.