Welcome to a new series on Oscartini on books and the movies that they become. Like most people, I’ve been burned by movies that didn’t live up to the expectations I had after reading a book (talking to you, Da Vinci Code). But I always keep going back for more. Why? Because I try to see book-based movies as complements to the book and an interpretation of the material. Instead of always being an exact replica, filmmakers usually adapt material to the medium of film, which may expand on some parts of a book and minimize others. With this view, I can usually avoid disappointment.
Now, on to the real first Read and Watch: The Help!
I am in a fantastical book club, comprised of friends and former co-workers. We’ve been in existence for about 5 months, and are going strong. As you can maybe guess, we recently read Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, and this weekend, a few of us went to see the movie.
When The Help came out in 2009, there was a fair amount of controversy around the subject matter, which has also followed the movie. The story of a white southern woman writing the plight of the black maids that have raised her and her friends and kept their houses does rub people the wrong way, and I can see the merit behind the various perspectives. But as a movie, I think The Help was done very well. A strong female-dominated ensemble cast featuring Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Allison Janey, Bryce Dallas Howard and Sissy Spacek, I found The Help to be a delicious slice of awesome movie amongst a summer of big budget, 3D blockbusters.
The white girl in question is Skeeter (Emma Stone), who after graduating from Ol’ Miss, returns to Jackson, Mississippi and starts writing a “household maintenance” column for the local paper. As one who’s never cleaned a house before, she turns to her friend Elizabeth’s maid, Aibileen (Viola Davis). From their conversations, Skeeter is inspired to write the story of what it’s really like being a black maid in Jackson. After getting Aibileen and saucy Minny (Octavia Spencer) on board, the movie streams through Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny quest to try to get more maids on board so the book will be published and various scenes from life as a maid in Jackson and life as a white maid employer (notably, Skeeter’s terrible friend Hilly, played by Bryce Dallas Howard).
I liked this movie a lot; despite being familiar with the source material, the actors really brought the characters to life. Viola Davis in particular was WONDERFUL playing Aibileen. She displays a great range, from caretaker (to a particularly adorable little girl of her employer’s) to writer, mother and fed up activist looking to do a small part to change how things are. Bryce Dallas Howard, though playing a reprehensible character, makes Hilly the best mean girl we’ve seen since Regina George.
The movie stays pretty close to the heart of the book, making this an easy to watch film for those who have not read the book. I would call this a semi chick flick, though the issues The Help centers around aren’t women issues so much as human issues. The Help was #1 at the box office this past weekend, so maybe the positive word of mouth will help it spread to a wider audience. Hopefully, we’ll see some recognition for Viola Davis and her peers come award season!
Have you seen The Help? Any plans to? What did you think as a book reader or as someone who hasn’t read the book? Leave your thoughts in the comments!