Home > Reviews > THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES – Mark Isham


October 17, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Secret Life of Bees is a familial/racial drama based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. Set in South Carolina in 1964, it stars Dakota Fanning as 14-year-old Lily Owens who, following the accidental death of her mother, escapes with her negro caregiver Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) from the clutches of her abusive father (Paul Bettany), and travels across the rural South heading for the home the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters – Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo and Alicia Keyes. As the unlikely pair travel, Lily learns from Rosaleen a number of harsh lessons about the realities of life, love, race, and what it means to embrace and acknowledge your past.

The score for the Secret Life of Bees is by the prolific Mark Isham; as befits the gentle drama of the film and the Southern setting, his music is of the low-key variety, with piano and strings augmented by acoustic guitars, enlivened by a few jaunty rhythms which have their roots in the Gospel music of the south. The main theme, as heard in the opening “A Box of Secrets”, is warm and pleasant, and similar in nature to earlier scores such as Nell and Fly Away Home, albeit with a slightly more melancholy overall feeling.

Cues such as “Don’t Bother Looking for Me”, “Peaches” and the emotionally heightened “Time to Die” allow the expressive guitars to rise to the fore to excellent effect, while later a soothing female vocalist adds her faraway-sounding textures to “Bee School”. The lovely pair “Daughters of Mary” and “Tears and Sprinklers” weave renditions of the classic hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ into the melodic line, further emphasizing the score’s roots in the deep South. The two moments of more emphatic darkness come in “Don’t Tell Mary” and “You Was Here All the Time”, which reverberate to brief but unexpectedly harsh percussion and threatening string chords, and contain another vocal performance, although the one in “Don’t Tell Mary” sounds more like a funereal lament than anything else.

However, the finale of the score – from the delicate, hesitantly romantic “Kiss” through the conclusive “All These Mothers” – maintains the score’s harmoniously pleasant and easily enjoyable quality, and highlight’s Isham’s under-used but obvious talent for writing this kind of music. Isham’s score is not commercially available; this review of the Oscar promo which was released ‘for your consideration’ by Fox Searchlight.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • A Box of Secrets (3:18)
  • Don’t Bother Looking for Me (1:00)
  • The Supremes Were In My Kitchen (0:54)
  • Peaches (0:44)
  • Black Madonna (0:50)
  • Just Another Way of Dying (1:22)
  • Who Have We Here? (0:48)
  • Bee School (2:23)
  • Daughters of Mary (2:48)
  • Purple Honey (0:51)
  • Tears and Sprinklers (1:00)
  • Marshmallows and Grahams (2:00)
  • Don’t Tell Mary (2:56)
  • Time to Die (4:48)
  • She Came Alone (1:36)
  • Map (1:25)
  • Kiss (1:24)
  • Hat Box (2:02)
  • Will You Marry Me? (0:58)
  • You Was Here All the Time (1:25)
  • All These Mothers (3:35)

Running Time: 38 minutes 16 seconds

Promo (2008)

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