Every year, a movie is released that is so torturous for me to sit through that it almost violates the terms of the Geneva Convention. A couple years ago, this movie was Marie Antoinette. Last year, it was Things We Lost in the Fire.
It’s not that there aren’t more boring films out there because there are. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford took home the gold for biggest dullard last year. The reason Things We Lost in the Fire was special was because it could have been interesting whereas Jesse James was meant to be boring.
This year, The Secret Life of Bees wins this award. Like Things We Lost in the Fire, The Secret Life of Bees has a pretty good cast (including Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Paul Bettany and Alicia Keys). Also, things happen in the plot (unlike Jesse James, which took three hours of nonsense dialogue to act out what the title already said).
However, The Secret Life of Bees was so weighted down with an angst-filled storyline with preachy characters and caricature bad guys. There is a rich relationship between the characters in the film, but the movie was so drawn-out and needlessly grim that I couldn’t connect with anyone.
I’ll admit that I’m not the target audience for this film. Like last month’s Nights in Rodanthe, this movie was made for the older female crowd… the type that meets with a local book club to enrich their lives with beautiful tales of the human spirit. While the source material for The Secret Life of Bees isn’t on Oprah’s list, it did make Good Morning America’s “Read This!” book club selection.
While I can’t speak for the novel, the movie adaptation is now on my “Skip This!” list.
The movie tells the story of a teenage girl who runs away from her abusive father to live with three African-American women in 1960s South Carolina. With the whole abusive angle, you might be asking yourself if this is the film that made all the buzz at Sundance last year for featuring the rape of Dakota Fanning. Well, this isn’t the one. The dad’s just physically and mentally abusive.
But it does bring up a good point… why is Dakota Fanning attaching herself to projects where she gets abused? And why is it that blue-haired old ladies who join book clubs eat this crap up? I personally don’t enjoy watching a fourteen-year-old girl get attacked by her father, but there’s a segment of society that just adores this kind of depressing tripe.
For the right audience, this movie works, I’m sure. Still, I’m a guy who likes raunchy comedies, horror movies and shoot-em-up action flicks. This is why, even though this film was only two hours long, it was the longest two hours I’ve spent in a theater this year.
The Upside: At least Dakota Fanning isn’t raped in this movie.
The Downside: I’m probably going to get an award screener for this film from the studio.
On the Side: In one scene, the girl’s father makes her kneel onto grits as a punishment. I never knew this hurt, so don’t try it at home.