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"THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES"
(2008) (Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Minor Moderate Extreme Moderate Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None Minor None Mild
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Minor Extreme Heavy Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A 14-year-old white girl runs away from home with her black caretaker and ends up living with an eclectic trio of honey making sisters in the racially divided south of 1964.
PLOT:
It's 1964 and Lily Owens (DAKOTA FANNING) is a 14-year-old white girl still tormented by childhood memories of accidentally shooting and killing her mother, Deborah (HILARIE BURTON), during a fight with her father, T. Ray (PAUL BETTANY). Lily now lives with her dad and their black housekeeper, Rosaleen Daise (JENNIFER HUDSON), but isn't happy, especially when T. Ray won't tell her about her mom and punishes her for something she didn't do.

When Rosaleen stands up to some racist men who then beat her bad enough to leave her under house arrest in the local hospital, Lily has had enough. After freeing Rosaleen, the two run away for Tiburon, South Carolina, a place that has some sort of connection to her mom's past that Lily hopes to discover.

Being fascinated with bees, Lily is drawn to the sight of locally produced bottles of Black Madonna honey and is directed to the home of August Boatwright (QUEEN LATIFAH) where it's made. Realizing the girls are in trouble but not pushing for answers, August decides to put them up, a delightful development for her ultra-emotional sister May (SOPHIE OKONEDO), but an irritant for their other sibling, June (ALICIA KEYS), who's more concerned with the civil rights movement than settling down with her boyfriend Neil (NATE PARKER).

As Lily gets the hang of working on the honey farm where she meets young worker Zach (TRISTAN WILDS), she still struggles with her past and hopes to find answers about her mom, all as T. Ray gets closer to finding out where she's now hiding.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they're fans of the source novel and/or anyone in the cast, they might.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For thematic material and some violence.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • DAKOTA FANNING plays a 14-year-old white girl growing up in the racially divided 1960s south, who's tormented by memories of accidentally killing her mother in the past as well as having to deal with her emotionally and physically abusive father. Accordingly, she runs away from home with Rosaleen and ends up staying with and working for August. While learning some life lessons and things about her mom, she also takes a liking to Zach, although their interracial pairing ends up causing them and others trouble.
  • QUEEN LATIFAH plays the owner of a honey making business who takes in Lily and Rosaleen, giving them a place to stay in exchange for helping out with business and domestic work. The most balanced of the sisters, she tries to help Lily through her personal demons, but must also contend with various unexpected developments. She uses some profanity.
  • JENNIFER HUDSON plays Lily's caretaker whose stance against racism results in her being wounded and sets the plot into motion. She ends up working in August's house in exchange for free room and board.
  • ALICIA KEYS plays August's uptight sister who isn't happy about the new housemates or with Neil wanting to marry her. Instead, she's focused on the civil rights movement, and uses some profanity.
  • SOPHIE OKONEDO plays their sister who's highly emotional and somewhat childlike in her demeanor and behavior. Ultra sensitive to the plight of others, she tries to release that through her rock wall that contains her written thoughts.
  • NATE PARKER plays June's boyfriend who's frustrated by her unwillingness to marry him.
  • TRISTAN WILDS plays a young worker who takes a liking to Lily despite knowing the dangers of being seen with a white girl.
  • PAUL BETTANY plays Lily's angry and frustrated father who's emotionally and sometimes physically abusive toward her. He uses profanity, drinks a little, and tries to figure out where she's run off to.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this drama that's been rated PG-13. Profanity consists of at least 3 "s" words, while other expletives and colorful phrases are uttered. Non-explicit, but sexually related dialogue is present, a dessert (apparently unintentionally) has phallic imagery, there's some brief kissing and a slight and also brief moment of sensuality.

    Violence includes some white men beating or roughing up some young black people, a father occasionally getting rough with and/or punishing his young teenage daughter, and a repeated flashback of a marital tiff resulting in an accidental shooting death (heard, not seen). Some of that has bloody results and some of those scenes might be unsettling to viewers.

    Tense family material is present (including familial deaths as well as an abusive parent's actions), and all sorts of bad attitudes (including racism and that parental abuse) are present, as is some behavior that might be enticing for kids to try to imitate. There's brief drinking and a scene involves tobacco chew.

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may want to look more closely at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • T. Ray has a beer.
  • T. Ray has a drink.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Lily's knees are slightly bloody the morning after her dad made her kneel in raw grits on the floor as punishment.
  • Rosaleen has a blood-soaked bandage around her head, and when Lily removes that, we see a very bad looking gash on her forehead (while she has some smaller cuts and abrasions elsewhere).
  • Lily vomits from an emotional trauma.
  • Zach has bruises on his face and a cut on the bridge of his nose after some white men grab and abduct him.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • T. Ray isn't nice at all to Lily, barely acknowledging her birthday and ignoring her need to know about her late mother.
  • About a large drawing of a peach that somewhat looks like a human butt, a boy in a passing car yells out to Lily, "Hey Lily, nice ass."
  • Lily goes out into the orchard and digs up a box containing a few things related to her late mom. She takes her photo and something else and places them on her bare belly (as if to feel some part of her mom), but having undone the bottom of her shirt to do so, T. Ray thinks she was fooling around with a boy when he finds her out there at night with part of her shirt unbuttoned. He later grabs her by the face, pins her to the bed and says, "You'll get pregnant and then what?" As punishment, he makes her kneel for an hour on raw grits on the kitchen floor, slightly bloodying her knees.
  • Some white men make racist and other disparaging remarks toward Rosaleen (including calling her a "nigger", asking if she's a smart or dumb one, and asking how she could vote if she can't spell). In response, she pours chew juice onto one of their shoes, prompting them to slap, pin and punch her (while Lily is held back), resulting in her being the one arrested. We later see her tied to her hospital bed in the "coloreds" ward with a bad-looking gash in her forehead.
  • About her late mom, T. Ray tells Lily that the "G*ddamn women didn't give a sh*t about you" and that she came back home to pack her belongings and not get her (as a 4-year-old). Lily doesn't believe it and thus runs away, leaving her dad a note that reads people who tell lies should rot in hell.
  • Lily frees Rosaleen from the hospital where she's being held prisoner (despite being the one wronged by racists) and both then go on the run.
  • In order to conceal being a runaway, Lily tells August that her father was killed.
  • June isn't happy that Lily and Rosaleen are there staying with them, and doesn't hide her displeasure. This occurs in various scenes until she finally warms up to them.
  • When June refuses Neil's marriage proposal just because she doesn't believe in marriage, he responds by saying, "Then you're the most selfish bitch I have ever met."
  • After Lily and Zach sit together up in the "colored" section of a movie theater balcony, white men (who had been outside protesting the expected arrival of actor Jack Palance with his black girlfriend or wife) storm in, grab and remove Zach, and push Lily down, with her hitting her head during this ruckus.
  • T. Ray finds Lily, says she's coming home with him, and then slaps and grabs her by the hair when she refuses. After August says she can stay with them, T. Ray says "Good riddance" and leaves, although he finally does tell Lily, after being asked, that her mom had indeed come back for her.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed here may be unsettling and/or suspenseful to younger viewers and/or those with low tolerance levels for such material.
  • We see a flashback to when Lily is 4-years-old, playing in the closet while her mom hurriedly packs (all seen from Lily's point of view). T. Ray then enters, is mad, and grabs Deborah and starts roughing her up a bit. She retrieves a handgun, but more struggling ensues and the gun drops. We then see Lily's hand reaching out and grabbing the gun, followed by the sound of it firing, but we don't see the impact (although we hear, from her later voice-over narration, that she accidentally shot and killed her mom).
  • Lily discovers many bees flying around her room. She isn't scared, but when she retrieves her dad to look, there are none to be found.
  • Thinking she's been fooling around with a boy (she hasn't), T. Ray grabs Lily by the face, pins her to the bed and says, "You'll get pregnant and then what?" As punishment, he makes her kneel for an hour on raw grits on the kitchen floor, slightly bloodying her knees.
  • Some white men make racist and other disparaging remarks toward Rosaleen (including calling her a "nigger", asking if she's a smart or dumb one, and asking how she could vote if she can't spell). In response, she pours chew juice onto one of their shoes, prompting them to slap, pin and punch her (while Lily is held back), resulting in her being the one arrested. We later see her tied to her hospital bed in the "coloreds" ward with a bad-looking gash in her forehead.
  • After Lily and Zach sit together up in the "colored" section of a movie theater balcony, white men (who had been outside protesting the expected arrival of actor Jack Palance with his black girlfriend or wife) storm in, grab and remove Zach, and push Lily down, with her hitting her head during this ruckus.
  • SPOILER ALERT: When May goes missing, everyone searches for her, and they find her under the water in a nearby creek, dead from drowning. That's followed by much grief, the reading of an emotional suicide note, and a funeral scene.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • We see a flashback to when Lily is 4-years-old, playing in the closet while her mom hurriedly packs (all seen from Lily's point of view). T. Ray then enters, is mad, and grabs Deborah and starts roughing her up a bit. She retrieves a handgun, but more struggling ensues and the gun drops. We then see Lily's hand reaching out and grabbing the gun, followed by the sound of it firing, but we don't see the impact (although we hear, from her later voice-over narration, that she accidentally shot and killed her mom). We later see part of this again, including the sound of the gunshot.
  • Some cops wear sidearms.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Holy sh*t," "G*ddman woman didn't give a sh*t about you," "This is bullsh*t," "Nice ass," "Niggers," "Is she a smart nigger or a dumb nigger?" "Black ass," "Get in the G*ddamn truck," "What the hell were you thinking?" "Like some dumb nigger" (said by Rosaleen about herself), "You bust his ass with the truth," "Zach, the ass-busting lawyer," "Idiots," "Then you're the most selfish bitch I have ever met" and "Oh, damn it to hell."
  • Seeing Lily and others working with bees, some kids might be enticed to do the same.
  • T. Ray hits peaches like baseballs with a bat.
  • Lily is still mad at her mom about believing she abandoned her, and thus throws several jars of honey against a wall in anger while yelling, "I hate you!"
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A bit of suspenseful music plays in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 3 "s" words, 4 asses, 4 hells, 3 damns, 7 uses of "G-damn," 3 uses of "Jesus Christ," 2 of "Oh my God" and 1 use each of "For Christ's sakes," "Oh Lord" and "Swear to God."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • About a large drawing of an peach that somewhat looks like a human butt, a boy in a passing car yells out to Lily, "Hey Lily, nice ass."
  • Lily goes out into the orchard and digs up a box containing a few things related to her late mom. She takes her photo and something else and places them on her bare belly (as if to feel some part of her mom), but having undone the bottom of her shirt to do so, T. Ray thinks she was fooling around with a boy when he finds her out there at night with part of her shirt unbuttoned. He later grabs her by the face, pins her to the bed and says, "You'll get pregnant and then what?" As punishment, he makes her kneel for an hour on raw grits on the kitchen floor, slightly bloodying her knees.
  • Rosaleen tells T. Ray that she needs to take Lily into town to buy a training bra.
  • Rosaleen shows a little cleavage.
  • June and Neil do some passionate kissing while clothed and standing.
  • May brings Zach the same desert she always makes him, and it includes an upright banana sticking out from it. Lily starts to say, "It looks like..." and Zach says he knows.
  • Zach puts his honey-covered finger into Lily's mouth for her to taste, and the scene has a little sensuality to it.
  • August tells Lily that the latter's mom married T. Ray due to being pregnant.
  • Zach and Lily briefly kiss.
  • Neil and June passionately kiss.
  • SMOKING
  • We see Rosaleen spitting some chew juice into a can while walking along with Lily. When some racists confront her, Rosaleen pours that juice onto one of the men's shoes to prove that she knows how to spell.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • We see a flashback to when Lily is 4-years-old, playing in the closet while her mom hurriedly packs (all seen from Lily's point of view). T. Ray then enters, is mad, and grabs Deborah and starts roughing her up a bit. She retrieves a handgun, but more struggling ensues and the gun drops. We then see Lily's hand reaching out and grabbing the gun, followed by the sound of it firing, but we don't see the impact (although we hear, from her later voice-over narration, that she accidentally shot and killed her mom).
  • Lily wants to know about her mom, but T. Ray is reluctant to give out any information, other than to say she was a lunatic.
  • Lily goes out into the orchard and digs up a box containing a few things related to her late mom. She takes her photo and something else and places them on her bare belly (as if to feel some part of her mom), but having undone the bottom of her shirt to do so, T. Ray thinks she was fooling around with a boy when he finds her out there at night with part of her shirt unbuttoned. He later grabs her by the face, pins her to the bed and says, "You'll get pregnant and then what?" As punishment, he makes her kneel for an hour on raw grits on the kitchen floor, slightly bloodying her knees.
  • T. Ray isn't nice at all to Lily, barely acknowledging her birthday and ignoring her need to know about her late mother.
  • About her late mom, T. Ray tells Lily that the "G*ddamn women didn't give a sh*t about you" and that she came back home to pack her belongings and not get her (as a 4-year-old). Lily doesn't believe it and thus runs away, leaving her dad a note that reads people who tell lies should rot in hell.
  • There's talk that May's twin sister, April, died when she was little. Upon this talk, May starts crying and runs out.
  • We see a flashback to the first scene showing Lily's parents struggling and then the sound of the gunshot.
  • Zach's mom is upset after he's abducted by a group of white men and no one knows his whereabouts or condition.
  • SPOILER ALERT: When May goes missing, everyone searches for her, and they find her under the water in a nearby creek, dead from drowning. That's followed by much grief, the reading of an emotional suicide note, and a funeral scene.
  • Lily is still mad at her mom about believing she abandoned her, and thus throws several jars of honey against a wall in anger while yelling, "I hate you!"
  • Lily looks through her mom's stuff that August brings out for her to peruse.
  • T. Ray finds Lily, says she's coming home with him, and then slaps and grabs her by the hair when she refuses. After August says she can stay with them, T. Ray says "Good riddance" and leaves, although he finally does tell Lily, after being asked, that her mom had indeed come back for her.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Racism.
  • Children not feeling loved or wanted.
  • On TV, Lily and Rosaleen watch news about the signing of the Civil Rights Bill.
  • After Lily says Rosaleen should have apologized to the racist for spitting chew on his shoe, she says that would have been a different kind of dying.
  • August's bee lessons as applied to life: Don't be afraid. Don't be an idiot. Don't swat. And send the bees love.
  • How honey is made.
  • The comment that not feeling is sometimes the only way to survive.
  • The comment that a person can start one way, but after life gets through with them, they come out completely differently.
  • August tells Lily that the latter's mom married T. Ray due to being pregnant.
  • VIOLENCE
  • We see a flashback to when Lily is 4-years-old, playing in the closet while her mom hurriedly packs (all seen from Lily's point of view). T. Ray then enters, is mad, and grabs Deborah and starts roughing her up a bit. She retrieves a handgun, but more struggling ensues and the gun drops. We then see Lily's hand reaching out and grabbing the gun, followed by the sound of it firing, but we don't see the impact (although we hear, from her later voice-over narration, that she accidentally shot and killed her mom).
  • T. Ray slowly steps down onto a roach.
  • Lily's knees are slightly bloody the morning after her dad made her kneel in raw grits on the floor as punishment (after grabbing her by the face and pinning her to a bed while reprimanding her).
  • Some white men make racist and other disparaging remarks toward Rosaleen (including calling her a "nigger", asking if she's a smart or dumb one, and asking how she could vote if she can't spell). In response, she pours chew juice onto one of their shoes, prompting them to slap, pin and punch her (while Lily is held back), resulting in her being the one arrested. We later see her tied to her hospital bed in the "coloreds" ward with a bad-looking gash in her forehead.
  • We see a flashback to the first scene showing Lily's parents struggling and then the sound of the gunshot.
  • After Lily and Zach sit together up in the "colored" section of a movie theater balcony, white men (who had been outside protesting the expected arrival of actor Jack Palance with his black girlfriend or wife) storm in, grab and remove Zach, and push Lily down, with her hitting her head during this ruckus.
  • SPOILER ALERT: When a woman goes missing, everyone searches for her, and they find her under the water in a nearby creek, dead from intentional drowning.
  • Lily is still mad at her mom about believing she abandoned her, and thus throws several jars of honey against a wall in anger while yelling, "I hate you!"
  • T. Ray finds Lily, says she's coming home with him, and then slaps and grabs her by the hair when she refuses.



  • Reviewed September 22, 2008 / Posted October 17, 2008

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