NOTE: This review regards the so-called “Director’s Extended Cut”. I’m not sure how it differs from the theatrical cut (other than an extraneous four minutes added for those who do care), but I can’t imagine this version as any sort of improvement.
Bottom Line: It has its moments to shine amongst two hours of staggering boredom.
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Starring: Alicia Keys, Dakota Fanning, Hilarie Burton, Jennifer Hudson, Nate Parker, Paul Bettany, Queen Latifah, Shondrella Avery, Sophie Okonedo, Tristan Wilds
When you come across a film poster flaunting a smile across every included face, there’s a 98% chance it’s another “feel-good” flick about to hit cinemas. Save for a few exceptions that have backed away from the tiresome archetypes (i.e. Jerry Maguire, Slumdog Millionaire), rarely is this a good sign. I often feel worried that the crews behind these films think its key audience is full of idiots who cannot even mildly identify the recurring thematic formula: assess the problem in the story, gradually evolve from saddening to joyful, relieve the audience’s emotions with a scene that will guarantee a good cry, then all of a sudden end on a severely optimistic note. The Secret Life of Bees is a film harrowed in majority not because it plays out as such a film, but because it offers nothing new, or nothing noticeably original, for that matter. The film isn’t terrible, due to some select bright spots and a solid performance from Queen Latifah–may I add that this gets my vote for her best performance since Chicago. Aside from those who watch films for that ultimate catharsis, it’s not particularly engaging.