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The Help Movie- A Review
Book vs Movie
The movie, The Help, opened in theaters recently to rave reviews. Those of us who had read the book could hardly wait to purchase our tickets and settle in. Our basic curiosity was whether the movie could do justice to the book, which by all reports was masterfully crafted. I’m here to say that director, Tate Taylor can breathe easily. The movie adheres to the book’s storyline, theme, and emotional impact enough that theater-goers do not feel cheated in the least.
Whoever cast the movie should be applauded: Emma Stone embodies Skeeter almost perfectly. At first I was taken aback that Skeeter was not tall and lanky, but I quickly got over that since Stone’s mannerisms and spunkiness were so right-on that her height did not matter. Viola Davis’s portrayal of Aibileen also fit well. Her quiet but almost regal comportment felt like Aibileen stepped out of the book and onto the screen, as did Minny, played by Octavia Spencer. Spencer’s Minny was both brash and compassionate, just like her alter-ego from the book. Hilly, played by Bryce Dallas Howard was just as cluelessly racist on the screen as she was in the book. Her power over the other ladies of Jackson Mississippi is even scarier on screen, and Howard couldn’t have done a better job. Two minor characters that stole my heart were Hilly’s mother, Mrs. Walters, played flawlessly by Sissy Spacek and Celia, played by Jessica Chastain. Celia is so naïve viewers have to feel for her, and Mrs. Walters, though her poor circulation has made her eccentrically dependent, is still coherent enough to see her daughter’s evil.
The plot of the book and the movie both revolve around Skeeter’s desire to become a serious writer. She just accidently walks into a project that changes all their lives.One unsettling change the movie makes is Aibileen’s motivation for deciding to allow Skeeter to interview her. In the book she is insulted by her employer having built her a bathroom separate from the house because of Hilly’s rantings that for health reasons, Blacks and Whites should not use the same bathroom. The insult turns into injury when she is forced to thank Hilly for her suggestion. We see these events in the movie but the catalyst is downplayed. The movie leaves out some events, but most of them, we don’t miss.
Why Did They Do That?
The biggest, and most glaring plot change comes in Constantine’s story. In the book, Constantine has had to send her young daughter away because the child looks white. Because of her color, her life in the south would have been predictably awful. This is such a secret that even Skeeter does not know about the daughter. The movie makers evidently thought viewers would not get the nuances of this subplot because they changed this storyline almost 100%. This was a strange and totally unnecessary change.
The Movie's Affect
Overall, the movie does exactly what the book’s author set out to do: show that the lines we draw that separate us are artificial and unnecessary. I must admit that seeing the story on the screen had a more visceral affect on me than reading the book. I cried a lot; not because any of the content was new to me, but because it brought back too many memories.