Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Help: Movie Review

Last night, a gaggle of fellow librarians (and one non-librarian roommate) and I went off to see The Help, which is of course based on Kathryn Stockett's novel of the same name.  We had all read (or in Jamie, Anna and my case, listened to it on a particular very long car ride to Washington, D.C.) the book and were interested to see how it would be translated into a movie.

I will say that overall I was quite happy.  I thought the essence of the book was there on the screen.  The Help is a long book, so of course the movie got distilled down to the main plot: Skeeter trying to get the maids of Jackson to give her interviews so she can write her book.  We saw some of the side plots, like Skeeter's relationship with Stuart, and Hilly's bathroom initiative, but they weren't as fleshed out.

The casting was excellent.  When I first heard Emma Stone was going to play Skeeter, my initial reaction was, "Oh no!  All wrong!"  But it turns out I really liked her in the role, and all the other characters were well cast too, especially Minny and Aibileen.  Aibileen was played by Viola Davis and Minny was played by Octavia Spencer and they were both just perfect.  Spencer especially I just loved as Minny.  She gave her all her spunk and humor from the book and she was hysterical.

The reaction from the audience last night was very positive as well, and I haven't been to a whole lot of movies where you can really tell how the audience was feeling.  For whatever reason, there was a very vocal audience last night.  Especially in terms of gasping.  There was a whole lot of audible gasping going on!  I started laughing every time it happened.  Clearly some people had NOT read the books.  There was also plenty of heartfelt laughter and a good bit of sniffling.

Spoilers ahead for those you haven't read the book and/or seen the movie.

Although overall I really enjoyed the movie adaptation of The Help, there were two changes in particular that I didn't really like and was annoyed they'd bothered to change it.  First were the circumstances surrounding Constantine's leaving the Phelan family.  For the movie, it was because Skeeter's mother was in the middle of a dinner with members of the League and Constantine's daughter barges in after being told to us the back door.  Mrs. Phelan couldn't let the other women see she didn't have control over her maid, so she sent them both away.  In the book, it was much more complex than that, what with Constantine's daughter being able to pass for white and so on, and I understand why they would have wanted to simplify it.  But I thought what was essential about that scene in the book was that Mrs. Phelan demanded that Constantine choose between her daughter or staying on with the Phelan's.  Of course Constantine chose her daughter, much to Mrs. Phelan's surprise.  In the movie, the creator's didn't seem to want Mrs. Phelan to come off looking that bad, which leads into the other change that annoyed me.

They just couldn't let Mrs. Phelan be a not-especially-nice person who constantly put her daughter down.  They had to give her her redeeming moment so she and Skeeter could hug.  At the end, when Hilly storms over to confront Skeeter and tell her mother what she's done, they had Mrs. Phelan telling Hilly to get her "raggedy ass" off her property, and then told Skeeter how proud she was that she'd written the book, and she wanted her to take the job in New York.  No, no, no.  But we had to have a Hollywood ending, and since letting Skeeter marry Stuart (who is the movie really served no purpose at all) would have been too big of a change, I guess they had to do something.  I thought that was too bad.  There was enough of a feeling of bittersweet hope at the end without that.

Also, I was really, really sad that the scene with Minny and Johnny Foote meeting for the first time wasn't in the movie.  It's when Johnny comes home early to cut down a tree Cecilia hates, and Minny freaks out because there's some crazy man with an ax in the yard, who then comes into the house and she locks herself in the bedroom.  I laughed so hard at that part in the book, and I'm sure Octavia Spencer would have done it justice.

If you've read and enjoyed the book, I would recommend seeing the movie, and if you haven't read the book, than definitely see the movie.

1 comment:

  1. Super movie!!! Great cultural setting, humor was well set up, good human interest situations, some difficult situations drove people to do the right thing, some exposed people who needed exposing, some situations were difficult and the help behaved well in spite of spoiled Jackson elite...very very very entertaining!!!!! Acted well, plot held interest...outstanding over all.


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