3/15/2012

The Help: Book vs. Movie

You is kind. You is smart. You is important


Warning: This might contain some spoilers. And this might be a post that doesn't make sense if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie. If you haven’t done either, I would advise you to go do both now. You can come back later and read this. (Please do!) Oh, and read the book first. Because books always rule. :)



The Book           

         The place is Jackson, Mississippi and the year is 1962. Eugenia Phelan, commonly known as "Skeeter" has just come home from college, but life at home isn't going very well. For one thing, her mother keeps trying to marry her off. For another, her dear Constantine, the colored maid who raised her since childhood, has left for good. Skeeter knows that something happened, but no one will tell her why Constantine left or where she went.
     Meanwhile, Skeeter has to content herself with playing bridge, trailing after her friends Hilly and Elizabeth, and writing a newsletter for the Junior League. It's not until she gets a newspaper job and a phone-call from New York publisher Miss Stein, that she realizes she is not content with the way things are. She is going to do something big. She is going to write something big. But first she needs to find out what Big is.
          Skeeter's new job sure isn't big, and Miss Stein won't publish her until she writes about something that she is passionate about, something that no one has written before. But there's a problem. Skeeter doesn't know what to write about. Her job is a problem too. She's been hired to write a housecleaning column, but she doesn't know a thing about housecleaning. Fortunately, Skeeter knows someone who does. Her name is Aibileen. She works as a maid for Elizabeth.
      While Aibileen is helping Skeeter with her cleaning column, Skeeter starts thinking about Constantine, and she realizes what she wants to write about. She wants to write about the help. No one has ever told things from the perspective of maids like Aibileen and Constantine. It's the perfect topic. It's simple too. She'll just interview Aibileen while Elizabeth thinks that they're working on the cleaning column.
     Unfortunately, things aren't as simple as Skeeter thought. Elizabeth is becoming nervous about the cleaning column business, and she's slowly shutting it down. Hilly is being pushy about segregation issues, and worst of all, Aibileen flat out refuses to be interviewed.
     But the idea is planted in Aibileen's head. She can't get it out. When tragedy strikes Jackson's black population, Aibileen decides to do it. She is finally going to tell people what it feels like to be her.
     It isn't long before Aibileen's sass-mouthed friend Minnie decides to join them. Minnie isn't keen on talking to a white lady, but she's fed up. Fed up with the way she can’t hold a job. Fed up with the way white ladies boss her around. Fed up with the way Miss Hilly fired her because she was working for Hilly’s mother Mrs. Walters. Fed up because Miss Hilly wanted Minnie for herself; because everyone knows that Minnie’s the best cook in the whole county. So yeah, Minnie’s fed up, but once Skeeter wins Minnie's trust, she has an ally for life.
     Minnie brings more than herself to the project. She also brings insurance for Aibileen, Skeeter, and herself. She knows something that only she and Miss Hilly know. Something Terrible Awful. Something Miss Hilly won’t want anyone to know. Something that will protect them all from Hilly’s wrath.

The Movie         

     The movie was amazing. All of the characters were excellent. I hate it when I watch a movie based on a favorite book, and the characters look SO wrong, and not at all like I imagined them. The Help wasn't like that. Sure, the characters didn't look exactly like I imagined them, but they looked right. I was entirely satisfied. And that's a compliment.
     I think it's fair to say that the movie was mostly true to the book. There were some things that weren't . . . there always are, but most of the details were perfect. (Right down to the cover of Skeeter's book, and Hilly's cold sore.)
     There were, of course, a lot of scenes missing. Almost all of the scenes and incidents involving Stuart were missing, which is understandable, because there's less time in a movie than there is in a book. Some of the Miss Celia parts were missing, but that was okay too, because they were mostly too graphic for a movie. There also wasn't very much about Skeeter becoming alienated from Hilly and Elizabeth. Again, like the Stuart part, it's understandable. But it is a little disappointing, because both of those themes and relationships were carefully built up and strung throughout the book.
     They really, really botched the part about Constantine and her daughter. I was not happy. I think the way they portrayed it was ridiculous and maybe even cowardly. They totally shied away from some crucial race issues, and it was just wrong. I won't say anything more, because I know some of you haven't read the book.
     Overall, the movie was truly excellent. I loved the characters, the scenery, the dresses and shoes, the everything. It was really well-done. I loved the toilet scene in Hilly's front yard (so many pastel colors!) heehee; and I almost died when Hilly got to her chapter and started screaming. And as for the chocolate pie? Unspeakably . . . um, unspeakable? That part completely lived up to the book.
     Sadly, I do have to point out that there was no sweet sentimental scene between Skeeter and her mother. (In the book, that is.) Skeeter's mother was not proud of her. She did not know that Skeeter wrote The Help, and there was not a nice gooshy mother-daughter hug. That was completely added by Hollywood.

Other Thoughts    

     First of all, I want to be like Skeeter. And I love Aibileen. I love Minnie too, but I have a special admiration for Aibileen's quiet, timid courage.
     Second of all, if you suffered through this whole post, congratulations. Hope it wasn't too painful. I feel like I didn't cover it adequately at all. I barely mentioned Stuart or Miss Celia (one of my favorites). But it's time for this review to be over. 
   Thirdly, if you haven't read the book, read it! If you haven't watched the movie, watch it! I know I just picked on the movie, but that's something I always do. They were both worth it, and I might go so far as to give them both five stars. Read it. Watch it. Now.



(Sources: Book Image, Movie Image)
 

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good book (and movie). I so should check them out! :)

    It's hard to write reviews without giving away too many spoilers, isn't it?!! But I thought this was a great review! Even if I haven't read/watched The Help. Yet. :)

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  2. The Help rocks! <3 I loved the movie! My mom and I are reading the book together at the moment and haven't quite finished it. I wish I had read the book before watching the movie. (That's always the best thing to do.)

    P.S I want to be like Skeeter too! :)

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