While attending the BlogHer 2011 conference in San Diego, I was privileged to be the guest of Disney Dreamworks for an advanced screening of The Help. It was actually one of the better movies I have seen in some time.
Yes, it is a tear-jerker. Bring tissues. Beyond the tears, however, is the story of young Skeeter (Eugenia) Phelan (Emma Stone) who, after graduating from Ole Miss, aspires to be a writer. Much to the dismay of her friends and her mother (Allison Janney), she is not on the marriage and baby track as are all of her peers.
Skeeter is also noticing how poorly the maids in the area are treated and sees injustice in the fact that “colored folk” are treated differently than “white folk”. In an attempt to effect change she thinks of writing a story from the perspective of “the help”. Such a thing has never been done, and given the climate in Jackson Mississippi in the 1960’s, puts those involved in a very dangerous situation. Amidst all of this, Skeeter hopes that somehow her book will be a catalyst for change.
In tandem with Skeeter’s story, we get the perspective of the help, primarily from Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer). We watch as they raise white babies only to have those white babies grow up to treat them poorly. We see the love that they have for these children and how once grown, the help has ‘outgrown its usefulness’.
We meet additional characters and encounter sideline stories along the way, but I don’t want to spoil the movie
Coincidentally, I had already been reading the book for my book club. I was about halfway through at the time that I saw the movie and the movie did not disappoint. It is my experience that the book is always better than the movie because of the details therein and the imaginative process that takes place while reading. I have to say however, that the characters in the movie live up to those created by the mind’s eye while reading, especially that of Minny Jackson. Bryce Dallas Howard is completely believeable as the snooty, spoiled Miss Hilly Holbrook, ring leader in Skeeter’s social circles and intent on keeping “coloreds” in their place. We feel for Skeeter from the very beginning and spend the entire movie wanting to see her succeed.
It won’t ruin the movie if I share a few interesting facts that I learned about the history behind the movie and the book:
- The film is based on the best-selling book The Help by Kathryn Stockett which remained on the New York times best-seller list for over 100 weeks, enjoying the #1 spot for six of those weeks.
- Kathryn Stockett’s book was turned down over 60 times before being accepted. You may wonder why she kept trying…Screenwriter Tate Taylor told her not to give up, that it would be accepted.
- Screenwriter Tate Taylor and book author Kathryn Stockett were childhood friends and grew up together in Jackson Mississippi, where they book is based.
All-in-all, I highly recommend going to see The Help.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about the movie. For those of you who have actually finished reading the book and who do see the movie, please weigh in and tell me what you think about how the two compare.
Have a wonderful night and enjoy the flick!