Casting buzz for “Bees” has Latifah, Hudson, Okonedo and Keys


As a bestseller about “the divine power of women and the transforming power of love,” it was only a matter of time before Sue Monk Kidd‘s debut novel

The Secret Life of Bees made its way to the big screen. But, still smarting from too many adaptation

debacles to count (The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood comes to mind), I wouldn’t have very much cared — until yesterday’s

Variety report about casting. With

Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Sophie Okonedo signed and Alicia Keys in talks, I’m setting aside my $11 now.

Dakota Fanning is due to star as teenaged protagonist Lily, but that doesn’t interest me so much (apparently nobody has yet followed

Sarah’s advice and convinced her that she

need not portray every precocious young girl). Nope, I’m all about this somewhat random but potentially quite satisfying group of non-adolescent stars:

Hudson as Lily’s nanny and friend Rosaleen, and

Latifah, Keys and

Okonedo as the Boatwright sisters. I’m also all about the fact that Gina Prince-Bythewood will be at the helm, using her

own based-on-the-book script. Since the Love and Basketball writer-director is responsible for one of the

greatest moments in female sports movies but has only done a modest amount of work since,

much of it on TV, I’m eager to see her in charge of a major release.

I didn’t love the book — which follows Fanning’s character as she tries to connect with her mother’s past and ends up forming new family bonds with the eccentric,

beekeeping Boatwrights — and I can’t quite see Okonedo, Latifah and Keys as sisters. But if the movie is done well, it might be just the sort of

“chick flick” I go for, in part because Prince-Bythewood has proven her ability

to keep potentially melodramatic scenes from veering into hokiness. And although I’m consistently disappointed by the somewhat contradictory and even tactless ways in which

the Queen and Keys

handle rumors about their own alleged “secret lives,” I’m willing to cut them (possibly far too much) slack because they’re simply too talented to ignore.

They might have a few other qualities I can’t ignore either, but I know I’m not the only one.

I do hope that if Prince-Bythewood decides to take advantage of the powerhouse pipes of her stars that she does so in keeping with the film, and not by tossing in some obligatory bonding song

just because she can (as far as I know this isn’t a musical, though the cast sure makes it sound like one). Since the story is set in South Carolina in 1964, I also hope that they get a

good dialect coach — nothing like poor accents to spoil Southern hospitality.

Finally, I sincerely hope that The Secret Life of Bees doesn’t end up on a future

“When Bad Movies Happen to Good Casts” episode of

Who Thought THAT Was a Good Idea? It’s so rare to see a mainstream film

featuring and directed by women of color that I’d hate for it to fail even more than I hated for Evening to fail, so here I am, thinking positively. Really, it’s hard not

to when it comes to this crowd!

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