Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Once I Was a Beehive Review

Yes, I know exactly what you are thinking right now. You're snickering at the title of this movie. You look at that and think that this is another one of those dumb, cheesy church movies that you'll only like if you are a 12-year-old Mormon girl. If you are a guy, you are especially thinking that this movie is not for you. How do I know that you are thinking this? Because those are the same thoughts I had. I heard about this movie back in March during the LDS Film Festival in Orem, Utah when I went to the movie Freetown. I was skeptic back then and even though I had nearly six months to decide if I was going to see it when it hit theaters, I was still unsure about it when it actually came out. That's why you're getting a review of it now instead of two weeks ago when it was actually released. I debated back and forth, but there ended up being a few reasons why I chose to go see it. The first reason is that not many people review these LDS films comparatively, so I felt an obligation to get my review out there. The second is that it is directed by Maclain Nelson, lead actor in the Saratov Approch, and I wanted to see what he put together. Finally, Jason Gray from Studio C posted that he loved the movie, so that was good enough for me. I was in. And holy cow was I stunned by this. Not only is this actually a really good movie that I, a male in his 20's, enjoyed, but I'm going to go as far as saying that this is one of the best LDS films that I have ever seen.

If you are reading this review, there is a good chance that you are a member of the LDS church and already know what a beehive is. But for the chance that you aren't a member, allow me to explain. No, we aren't talking about the home of one of those black and yellow flying, stinging insects that we call bees. The LDS church is a very organized church with a lot of different groups and classes that we split up into for various reasons. The young women of the church have their very own organization where the girls aged 12-18 are split into three different groups, based on age, called Beehives, Mia Maids, and Laurels. Don't ask me where they got those names from, but that's what it's been. Beehives are the girls aged 12-13. Thus our movie title. Once I Was a Beehive. The movie actually follows a non-member teenage girl named Lane who is suffering from the loss of her father. On top of that, she is also upset that her mother got re-married as fast as she did to a faithful Mormon guy. With this marriage she has a new 12-year-old cousin that she quickly becomes close to and through a certain chain of events, she agrees to go with this cousin to girl's camp, which is where the majority of this movie takes place.

If you've followed my blog long enough, you'll know that I've developed a strong love for indie movies because without a large budget, they are forced to rely on the basic elements of film in order to make a good movie instead of just a bunch of awesome special effects. When I say basic elements of film, I specifically mean a well-thought out, well-written story; good characters played by good actors; and some good old-fashioned camera work. You don't need a lot of money to make a really good movie and this here is a perfect example of that. First off, this is an amazing story. I thought it was just going to be a girls camp movie, but it was much more than just that. This is mainly about a girl trying to deal with the death of her father and thus this has a very high level of emotion. I didn't really know what to expect going in, but I certainly didn't expect to be brought to tears in several occasions, but that's what happened. There were a few different scenes where I almost completely lost it. I've dealt with the death of several people that were really close to me and it sucks. You try to look at things from a bigger picture and try to be positive, but it's still very hard to deal with. This movie could've dealt with things in a cliche, predictable way. It's very raw, very honest, and very real. Because of that, this felt like a very personal movie that really moved me.

This isn't just a sad, depressing movie the whole time. This movie is also a blast. Yes, there were several scenes that almost brought me to tears, but there were even more scenes that had me busting up laughing. Seeing a non-Mormon girl jump head first into Mormon culture without much warning or knowledge of what she was getting herself into was played rather well and was very amusing. In addition to that, you get all the different stereotypes with these Mormon teenage girls as well as their leaders and it's just fun to watch all of them as they go throughout the week. I haven't ever been to a girl's camp before, so I don't really know what it's like, but I've been around enough girls growing up that I feel that this movie was most likely spot on with girl's camp and all the fun, crazy adventures and stories that come from that. I made sure to gauge the reaction of all the girls around me because I was one of the few males actually in the theater and they all seemed to love every minute of this movie. I think there's two things that you can take from this. First off, I had a lot of fun with this movie, so this isn't a movie where you have to have been to girl's camp to enjoy. Second, if you actually have been to a girl's camp at some point in your life, this is an absolute must see. All the girls around me were laughing and bawling the whole movie. I was secretly listening in on conversations as I was walking out of the theater and reaction was extremely positive. In fact, when the credits rolled, my theater gave the movie a standing ovation.

I say that I haven't ever been to girl's camp. This is true. But I did go on plenty of week-long scout camps when I was a teenager in the church as well as plenty of high-adventure camps and outings and even though a guy's camp and girl's camp are obviously going to be very different, I feel there are several principles that are similar. The main thing is you have a lot of different people at different ages with different backgrounds all coming together for a week. There's always ups and downs throughout the week, but despite the differences, there's a special bond that you all form that week. Because of that bond, there are many memories that are made that you will never forget. In fact, these memories are some of my best childhood memories. I'll never forget the time we went on a 50-mile hike over the course of three days or spent the week in the Uintas or the Teetons. It's the best. This movie did a very good job of capturing this. All these girls are very different from each other, but they all form a great bond and it's fantastic watching them all come together. This is done so well due to great performances all around. I could start name dropping here because I've never heard of any of these actresses, but they were all great. I especially liked our main girl and her new 12-year-old cousin who were played by Paris Warner and Mila Smith. Huge props to these girls for carrying this movie and huge props to all of the supporting cast around them.

On top of all this, all the technical aspects of this movie are done very well. All the camera work looks very professional. There are a lot of great shots in this movie with great lighting, great camera angles, and great editing. All in all, the cinematography is excellent. Yes, I pay attention to all of those little details, especially in smaller films like this. It's interesting to see how well they compare to bigger budget movies. This movie looks very professional. I was impressed. There are a lot of small LDS films that look very cheaply made. This is not one of them. This is fantastic. There's a lot of crew members that I could attribute this success to, but the big name that I will attribute this to is that of Maclain Nelson as he wrote, directed, and produced this film. I'm always curious about actors that I like that jump behind the camera for a change. It's not always a successful transition, but in this case it is. Looking at Maclain's filmography, this is technically not his first directorial effort as he co-directed a movie called Vamp U that I've never heard of back in 2011, but that's it. So he's fairly new to this directing experience, which makes this even more impressive. I mainly know Maclain from The Saratov Approach as he played Elder Propst, one of our kidnapped Elders. He was great as an actor in that and now that he's done great as a director, he's someone that I definitely have my eye on.

Overall, I was super impressed with Once I Was a Beehive. I almost chose to not see the movie at all because it didn't seem like a movie I'd enjoy, but I'm glad that I decided to give it a shot because it was a great overall experience. It had a moving story that hit home for me. I was almost brought to tears several times. I also had a whole lot of fun with the movie as I was laughing out loud throughout. Great story. Great writing. Great characters. Great acting. Great message. This is a movie that needs to be seen. According to the movie's facebook page, this will be leaving Utah soon, so if you live in Utah I'd recommend you don't hesitate with this one and see it as soon as possible, before it disappears. If you live outside of Utah, this will be expanding a bit in the next month or so at least to places like Idaho and Arizona. If you can't catch it in theaters, then you need to find it when it comes to DVD. It will be all over in places like Deseret Book before too long. Will you like this if you are not of member of the LDS church? I don't know. Maybe? But if you are a member, you need to see this regardless of your age and gender. It really is one of the best LDS films in my opinion. My grade for Once I Was a Beehive is a 9/10.

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