Pride And Glory” & “The Secret Life Of Bees”
 
            One is very macho, the other is gently, insistently, feminine.  In both, the central character has to overcome inferior family influences in order to find a kind of true inner integrity, which at least part of the family grudgingly accepts, but only after much pain and devastation.   Racism is a dominant theme in both, although one is set in the Deep South of the 60’s, and the other in present-day New York City .  Maybe we haven’t progressed as much as we’d like to think. 
In “Pride And Glory,” a family of NYPD policemen see themselves as the good guys, protecting an unsuspecting public who have no idea what they have to endure, but are also a little too aware of how much power the badge and the gun provide.  The brother-in-law (Colin Ferrell) turns crooked, the older brother (Noah Emmerich), his commanding officer, turns a blind eye, and the Dad (Jon Voight), a senior officer, first begs his younger son (Edward Norton) to volunteer to investigate, then tries to browbeat him into sweeping everything under the rug.  He is tempted, but events conspire to reveal ugly truths, and before long no one is innocent.  The few women in the family are subordinated to irrelevance;  literally told to leave the room when “business” is discussed, like a grim parody of the Mafia, except these are supposed to be the ones enforcing the law.  There is a kind of broken, brokered resolution at the end, but only after the urban battlefield is littered with the corpses of both the guilty and the innocent:  truth is hardly pure, repentance is never unencumbered, and relationships are always….complicated.  Hardly a feel-good movie, but the veteran character actors keep it from completely drowning in its own clichés.
In “The Secret Life Of Bees,” poor motherless Lily (Dakota Fanning), 14-year-old girl from South Carolina , runs away from her abusive “white trash” Dad (Paul Bettany), along with the maid (Jennifer Hudson).  They find themselves at the house of August Boatwright (Queen Latifah), who used to be a nanny, but now runs a bee farm inherited from her grandmother.  Also living at the house are August’s two sisters, May (Sophie Okonedo) and June (Alicia Keys).  As expected in a “chick flick,” the male characters are some combination of cruelly despotic, conspicuously absent, charmingly irrelevant, and obviously flawed.  This story is really about the women, and their relationships, and, especially, the emotional development of Lily, as she finds out, from both observation and personal experience, that love is never simple.  But it’s still worth all the heartache to try to find it.  Religion is not so much the standard Catholicism as some strange amalgam of  black Madonna worship. (Nobody calls the statue in the living room an idol, but they gather around it to preach and pray, and if you touch its chest during a serious liturgical ritual, you just might get a miracle, at the very least, find inner peace.) 
In “P& G,” the objectionable language is pervasive, and the violence, both real and intended, is enough to make anyone squeamish.  In “TSLOB,” though the emotional scarring is just as real, the setting is much quieter, the pace is much slower, and the homespun truth is as sweet as…..well, honey from the beehive.
 
Questions For Discussion:
1)      When have you been surprised by unexpected racism?
2)      What should the punishment be for “dirty cops”?
3)      When should a single parent not have custody of a child?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas