Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review for the Movie “The Help”

Picture From the Movie Review Page

A couple of nights ago, I had a neighbor over and we watched this movie together. She was a bit lost at times. I had to explain what was going on in places in the movie, which is not near as detailed as the book, although you do get the picture of the segregation of the south in the 1960’s. The movie leaves out a lot, which is the way movies are. As it is, this is a two and one half hour movie. If it followed everything in the book, it would probably be six hours long. The actors and actresses do a good job of portraying the times.

My neighbor was also shocked that this kind of stuff really happened all over the South.  She knew of segregation but rained in the North, didn't really realize how prevalent this was in the 1960's.

As you know, I have read and reviewed the book not long ago. I will recap the story here, but would suggest reading the book, which is wonderful, yet quite sad to think that we can treat other human beings differently just because of their color.

Skeeter and her "friends" from the movie website

Skeeter, a would-be writer, slowly starts to see her friends for the bigots they are. Not everyone in the south raises their children with this kind of attitude, but many do and so values are passed on to the next generation. Peers also put the pressure on to make sure you walk the right line, or you face ostracizing yourself.

When Skeeter returns home, after graduating from the University of MS, she finds the maid that raised her is gone and she can’t get answers out of anyone as to what has happened to Constantine. She begins to sleuth around on her own, eventually getting answers she seeks.

To pursue her writing career, much to the chagrin of her mother who thinks she should get married like any decent white girl, Skeeter lands a job at the local newspaper office in order to gain experience, so she can pursue her ambition of becoming a journalist. The job is writing a cleaning column. She knows nothing about this subject and enlists the help of Aibileen, her friend Elizabeth’s maid, in answering the cleaning questions. Elizabeth agrees, as long as it doesn’t interrupt Aibileen’s cleaning and cooking schedule. Of all the maids, Skeeter is the closest to Aibileen, who is happy to help, since Constantine is no longer in the picture.

Minny, Aibileen, and Skeeter from the movie's website
As time goes on, Skeeter realizes how bad things are when one of her other friends, Hilly, introduces the “sanitation initiative,” which would force all white people to have separate toilets for the black help. Things are already bad enough when the maids have to eat in the kitchen and to keep their dishes and silverware separate from the white peoples. She decides to write a book about how it is to work for the white families. She wants to interview the black maids and put down on paper all the hardships they endure on a daily basis. It takes a lot of coaxing, but eventually Skeeter gets Aibileen to agree. They meet secretly at the shack that Aibileen calls home on the black side of town.

Other maids, who are appalled at first that Aibileen is even doing such a thing, begin to jump onboard the writing project after Hilly fires her maid and has her imprisoned for stealing. Soon after, the killing of a black activist in front of his own home is another factor that pushes them into helping with the book that Skeeter and Aibileen started.

The Help is an inspirational, courageous story about segregation the South in the 1960’s. Strong, women form unlikely friendships over a writing project that they hope will eventually change lives for the better. They are breaking all the rules by meeting in secret over the book project, but they think it is worth the risk. The story is poignant, humorous, and hopeful. You want to root for the black women who work hard and tolerate abuse to earn $100 a month to support their own families.

I highly recommend the book and the movie. I gave the book five stars. I give the movie three stars because of many of the details are lost.

I want to close by giving you a few trivia facts about this story.

The director of the movie, Tate Taylor, and the author, Kathryn Stockett, were childhood friends in Jackson, MS.

Kathryn Stockett’s book, the Help, received sixty rejections before it was published.

Jessica Chastain, who played Celia Foote in the movie, ate soy ice cream melted in the microwave to gain weight for the role.

Find more trivia here:

The Help (2011) - Trivia - IMDb

I also thought this was interesting. I found it on the movie website. Here are two short snippets.

Aibileen Clark: I was born 1911, Chicksaw County, Piedmont Plantation.

Skeeter Phelan: And did you know as a girl growing up that one day you'd be a maid?

Aibileen Clark: Yes ma'am, I did.

Skeeter Phelan: And you knew that because...

Aibileen Clark: My mama was a maid. My grandmama was a house slave.

Skeeter Phelan: [whispering as she writes down] “house slave...” Did you ever dream of being something else?

Aibileen Clark: [nods yes]

Skeeter Phelan: What does it feel like to raise a white child when your own child's at home being looked after by somebody else?

Aibileen Clark: [silence as she looks over to the wall to see a picture of her son]

And here’s another short snippet:

Hilly Holbrook: They carry different diseases than we do. That's why I've drafted the Home Health Sanitation Initiative.

Skeeter Phelan: The what?

Hilly Holbrook: A disease-preventative bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the colored help. It’s been endorsed by the White Citizen’s Council.

Skeeter Phelan: Maybe we should just build you a bathroom outside, Hilly.

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