Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Help- Great flick, now I have to read the book!

The Help movie based on the book by Kathryn Stockett
Apparently I am one of the few North American women who have not read The Help. I did however get a chance to see the film on the weekend. I absolutely loved it! It was nice for a change not to know the plot of the film and simply lose myself in the story. For anyone who doesn't know the basic premise of the film, this synopsis is from the film's IMDb page:

Emma Stone as Skeeter, Octavia Spencer as Minny and Viola Davis as Aibileen

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends' lives -- and a Mississippi town -- upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Aibileen (Davis), Skeeter's best friend's housekeeper, is the first to open up -- to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter's life-long friendships hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their stories -- and as it turns out, they have a lot to say. Along the way, unlikely friendships are forged and a new sisterhood emerges, but not before everyone in town has a thing or two to say themselves when they become unwittingly -- and unwillingly -- caught up in the changing times.

Emma Stone as Skeeter a modern woman in a backwards 1960s Southern town
I have heard some criticism of the book and the film because it was a story about "black women" written by a "white woman". I really don't like white and black as labels. Particularly since the line between the two gets blurrier every year (thankfully). How dark skinned do  you have to be before you are considered black?  If Halle Berry is considered black, is her daughter also black? Halle's daughter has 3 white grandparents and one black grandparent. At what point is a person considered white or black? My kids were raised to understand that skin colour is a spectrum from very dark to very light with everything in between and we never use the terms white and black for skin tone in our house. OK, now I'll get off my soapbox!

The Help movie is both funny and serious
The point is that this film seems to fairly accurately portray many sides of  a complicated history of the Southern US in the 1960s. I learned the term "Jim Crow Laws" in my research. These are the supposed "separate but equal" segregation laws enacted between 1876 and 1965.

The fact that someone (whatever colour their skin) thought that this was an important enough topic to write about is the important thing. That the descendants of the oppressed minorities of the Deep South need to tell this story too is self evident. In fact, some of these women are still alive and perhaps they would like to tell the story in their own words. I suggest the title "The Real Help" and it will probably sell millions of copies!

Bryce Dallas Howard and Sissy Spacek clash wonderfully as mother and daughter (and Octavia Spencer's pie is a star too!)
And the really important point is that The Help is an entertaining film (it'll have you laughing and dabbing tears) and it's heart is in the right place. A film covering sensitive topics will always hit a raw nerve somewhere, but this one is two thumbs up for me. I'd love to see it again...but I'll likely read the book first!

P.S. Bryce Dallas Howard plays the antagonist, Hilly, in the film and the resemblance to her father Ron Howard is remarkable. She did such a great job playing the meanie that it made me cringe!

P.P.S. Sissy Spacek is solid gold!

The HelpThe Help


  1. Like you, I was disappointed to hear of some of the criticisms of the book and film based primarily on Stockett being a white author. I do hope that this work moves us further along in accepting each other regardless of skin colour.

    Hope you get your hands on the book soon! I absolutely loved it! I can appreciate your comment about appreciating the film without knowing what would happen as I've been disappointed of late with watching films that are book adaptations but this one passed the test!

  2. I'm hoping to see this film this weekend. I forget it was out, and I went to see the Rise of the Planet of the Apes instead. I can hardly believe I did that. Apes jumping through windows. Wow!

  3. @Cheryl-here's to racial harmony! Glad to hear you loved the book. Now I really want to read it.

    @Mary-I think you'll probably like this one better than apes jumping out of windows!

  4. I went to see this movie, having never read the book, for two reasons. One being that I heard the book was wonderful and two the lady who wrote the book is a member of a sorority that I, too, am a member of; and so I wanted to show support. I went with my best gal pal for a kid free day out and the movie was beyond fabulous! We went to the bookstore, before the movie and the book was sold out.
    The racial issue is hard to see, I didn't grow up in that world and it's very painful to see people treated that way. It is a part of our cultural history, and I'm surprised it was never explored in this way before. Although, I agree, I'd like to see the real Help's perspective.
    My only regret with this film is that Sissy Spacek didn't have more lines, she's one of America's most under rated actresses.

  5. @ladytoesocks-So glad you thought the film was fabulous. I absolutely agree that we needed more of the wonderful Sissy Spacek. Maybe there are some deleted scenes that we'll get on DVD!




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