The Help

Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard
Directed by Tate Taylor
Based on the book by Kathryn Stockett
Rating: B-

In Jackson, Mississippi a young woman decides to stir up trouble by writing a controversial anthology of stories told by the perspective of “The Help,” but no one is willing to talk.

It’s a time in which the civil rights movement is only just beginning and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is making his voice heard. It’s said that Jackson is among the worst in the south to treat colored people and times are not getting any better.

An ambitious young woman named Skeeter (Stone) wants to let colored maids share their perspective of working for white families and raising white children only for the kids to grow up to behave like their parents. After recruiting one maid named Aibileen (Davis), she begins to uncover the troubled lives of colored people. Meanwhile, Skeeter’s interest in colored lives gets her shut out of her circle of friends who wish to preserve life as it is.

The Help aims to inspire its audiences with tales of friendships and overcoming hardships in times of trouble. It takes a lot of brave women to trust Skeeter, because their lives are in danger once the book is published. Even though their names have been changed, as well as the town, rumors spread that put a spotlight on Jackson.

The movie version of The Help strongly pales in comparison to the novel. It truly lacks the sense of danger the maids put themselves in through talking with Skeeter about their lives. The movie glazes over the attacks of colored men, and how it affected the colored community. In addition, the novel gives a more meaningful look at the lives of Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter. After all, Aibileen is the key component behind why Skeeter writes the book, as it was Aibileen’s deceased son who wanted to write about the lives of colored people.

One strong character in the movie is Hilly Holbrook (Howard), who is the sole person in Jackson trying to make everyone’s life a living hell. However, she is more mean in the book. Her motivations are made clearer by the fact that her husband is running for a government position, and she does everything she can to live a model life. She completely shuts Skeeter out of the Junior League and out of their circle of friends. The movie doesn’t show how isolated Skeeter feels, especially when her mother is super sick from cancer and her love life is up and down.

Overall, the movie gave a watered down version of the story that still managed to touch the people who went to see it in theaters. I remember hearing a lot of people rave about how great the movie was. After reading the novel, I would strongly recommend others to read it after watching it just so they can get a bigger impact on how life was in Jackson.

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