Loss, fear and unwanted change is a common theme in Hollywood; someone is laid-off and they’re forced to move from the city to a rural neighborhood several states away, for example. The reason this holds a permanent home in the movies is because it’s a fully relatable theme for most people, on one level or another.
In “Once I Was a Beehive” we find ourselves following a young teenage girl named Lane (Paris Warner), a sweet-natured adolescent who finds herself facing a horrible and life-shaking event in the passing of her father. Not a year later, Lane’s mother remarries, but the real problem isn’t so much that our protagonist finds herself with a new step-dad, it’s that he’s a Mormon.
The story really takes off once Lane is forced to stay with her step-dad’s sister and family while he and Lane’s mom head out to their honeymoon. As with most movies of this type, we know we’re about to enter a fish-out-of-water scenario, and “Beehive” doesn’t disappoint.
In what must be an awkward and upsetting change of events, Lane is whisked away to a summer camp for Mormon girls. As one can imagine, summer camp can be an adventure under the best of circumstances; how will Lane fare against a cliquish group of Christian girls who she couldn’t have less in common with?
“Beehive” is not the kind of movie that runs through the course on autopilot. Where most films with an LDS-centric story tend to plod along in favor of light proselytizing, “Beehive” instead peels away layer after layer of realistic scenarios and situations, peppered with welcomed comedy and enough heart to warm even the coldest of those who watch. Popular and preppy girls aren’t always what they seem, and neither are those on the other end of the social spectrum. One thing is for sure: Each of the young cast of campers brings a crucial and dynamic role to the table, and it works wonderfully.
And, perhaps not surprisingly, the movie is cheesy; it’s self-aware to the point of entertaining those in the audience who are likely LDS themselves, but pokes enough into the ribs of Mormon culture to show that it’s not taking itself or its religious roots too seriously, a sort of admittance that Mormons are … well … a bit weird. The result makes the movie easier to watch and enjoy, and is a breath of fresh air in a niche genre.
But perhaps the most surprising aspect of the film was the fact that even though its central character is a young girl, who is surrounded by a dozen or more girls her age and a few older female leaders, the movie is definitely accessible for the less fair gender. Yes, even boys and men can watch “Once I Was a Beehive” and derive great satisfaction from the wonderful acting, solid story and keenly shot scenes of Utah’s glorious mountains.
In fact, much like the take on its underlying subject matter, the light casting of but a few men is refreshing, and in no way should scare off those men who would otherwise never think twice about this movie.
Whether you’re partial to “secret sister gifts,” whittling, masculine park rangers with elegant mustaches, bulls-eye snowball hijinks or what might possibly be the best homage to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” you’ll ever see, there is something in this film for everyone.
A true and considerate look into faith, loss and acceptance, “Once I Was a Beehive,” written and directed by Maclain Nelson, doesn’t reach for the stars and makes no false accusations about attempts at converting people to Mormonism or Christianity. Instead, “Beehive” tells a campfire tale that, if nothing else, makes a person feel good, and that is a rare thing to see in movies these days.
"Once I Was a Beehive" is in theaters for a limited time, so take the family soon. It can be seen in most movie theaters across the Wasatch Front.