Really wanted to like the movie, but it was just insipid compared to the book. If you had not read the book perhaps you'd like it, but knowing the true story the movie version fails miserably.
As the story is based in great part within the head of Lily I knew it would be a challenge to portray, but as such the emphasis on other fine-points in the book had to be on the money. The casting for the most part was terrible, which does not reflect the actors or their talent, as they were given lines that were mealy. Probably the best cast, and best played was Sophie Okonedo who played May. Dakota Fanning cast as Lily was ok, and she had some strong moments.
Part of the problem was the set and how they took the concept of "cultured" too visually literal (what was up with all the all of the khakis and white shirts?); it seemed that Queen Latifah was made to float through the movie with a smile on her face rather than have the opportunity to draw out the depth of August Boatright. August's power was in her intellect, her wisdom, and the understanding and love of the human condition. There were also several areas that simply were not accurate (there was not a movie scene with Zach & Lily, this altercation happened on the street with some of Zach's peers).
Jennifer Hudson's script did not allow her to show the depth of Rosaleen. Rosaleen was feisty (should have shown the scene with her and T.Ray and the chick), and they should have let her actually have snuff in her lip and let her spit. Most of the time she is made to go through the movie looking vancant. T.Ray was not nearly as mean as he was in the movie, and though he did have a couple of almost human moments, he surely did not ever say "I love you," and you were supposed to be left wondering more strongly at the end if T.Ray let Lily go because down inside he did love her, or that his heart had hardened to such an extent that he truly had become mean-hearted and vile. Clearly Paul Bethany had the ability, but he too seemed to limited by the Director's need to sugar-coat the story.
I think the worst mistake was not explaining May's situation better. It did not explain that April committed suicide, or that she built up strong arm muscles carrying the rocks to the wailing wall (which would better connect you to the rock she placed on her own chest in the creek). They also blew it by a very simple omission; not allowing May to hum "oh Susanna" more clearly. (Another misrepresentation is that May found out about Zach on the phone not through personal contact with Zach's mom, this scene was powerful in the book, and limp in the movie).
So....sigh. Seriously bummed by the movie, but The Secret Life of Bee's will always be one of those books I reread occasionally (this was the third time prior to watching the movie). In the middle of "The Invention of Wings."