The Secret Life of Bees, adapted and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood from the best-selling book by Sue Monk Kidd, weaves racism and the civil rights movement around the story of Lily (Dakota Fanning), a young white girl taken in by three African-American sisters when she runs away from her controlling, emotionless father. It's a role that's in some ways reminiscent of the character Fanning played in Hounddog, a film that was critically panned and rather controversial for having a scene in which Fanning's character was raped.
This time around, there's no such awkward controversy; The Secret Life of Bees is a sweet, mostly charming coming-of-age tale that, while it doesn't particularly break any new ground with regards to the filmmaking, does an able enough job of adapting a bestselling book of the "women's bookclub" variety for the screen. Here's the basic story: Lily is haunted by the death of her mother; now, on the eve of her fourteenth birthday, she's had enough of her father, T-Ray (Paul Bettany), and starts to fight back against him.
When their maid, Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson), is accosted by a pack of angry white men on the way to registering to vote -- and ends up arrested herself for her trouble -- Lily decides that it's time for both her and Rosaleen to escape. She has a vague idea about where to go -- Tiburon, South Carolina -- based only on the name of a town written on one of the few possessions she has of her mother's, and a label from a honey jar.