Monday, October 20, 2008

Secret Life of Bees: Perfect Cast


So I went and saw the Secret Life of Bees movie this weekend. Thumbs up. It’s been getting average reviews, mostly in the form of occasional slams for its being too sentimental, but honestly, this is a chick flick, people. Get over it.

The movie stuck close to the book, but there were little moments unique to the movie that I thought improved the story. Overall, I agree with what was cut--and changed--for the movie. It was interesting how Zach went missing instead of being arrested, but either way works fine. I like how they gave us a glimpse of T-Ray’s character in the past and how June initiated the final marriage proposal in the movie. It focused the moment on her character more. Another thing that I noticed was the question that Lily asks T-Ray before he leaves for good. It’s different in the movie, but I thought it was a good decision. Bottom line: This was a strong, faithful adaptation.

Another criticism I’ve been hearing/reading is that the plot is predictable or cliche, more of a TV movie-caliber than feature film, to which I say, I kind of expected it. I mean, the plot structure of the book is solid to the point of being been-there-done-that, and it inevitably carried over easily into the film, but knowing this didn’t deter me from liking the book or the movie. You have to pick your battles. For the book, the writing/language and characters saved it from the predictable beats of the plot. In the film, the thing that saved it was undoubtedly the cast.

They couldn’t have gotten a better cast for this movie: Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, and Sophie Okonedo. Need I say more? And is it weird that the most interesting character in this story for me is T-Ray? He and Lily are alike in their suffering, and so he is a good foil for Lily's character: what she would have been without the Boatwright sisters. On the other hand, I think T-Ray shows signs of vulnerability, like he could change if he came upon the right people and conditions, as Lily had, and in that sense he isn’t a stereotypical deadbeat father figure at all. Paul Bettany played the role well, and, I think, got this element across. But that could be just me seeing what I want to see. If there was one scene I wish the movie had done more with, it would have been the one with Lily and T-Ray at the end. It went by too quickly.

This movie review by Time magazine, by Richard Corliss, probably reflects my sentiments the best: http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1851105,00.html

I love it when the casting is just right: Lord of the Rings, Hairspray (2007), Steel Magnolias, Forrest Gump, Christopher Reeve as Superman, Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the Harry Potter trio, Amy Adams as Giselle in Enchanted, Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth in the play Wicked, and so on.

Just reading that list makes me want to give a big sigh of relief.

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