I’m not one to normally do film/book reviews the conventional way. I prefer to see the movie first and then be delighted by the book’s additional story and character development. However, I went old school with Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. I read the book last month and shared my book review here. Then this past weekend I went to see the film with my mumsy, who has also read the book. Here’s why I thought it worked.
Kathryn Stockett partnered with a friend. She didn’t just go to the highest bidder. She had someone who was invested in this story and wanted to assist her in telling it; Tate Taylor did that. It’s impressive, being only his third directorial picture, the first being a short film, and now The Help is ranked an 8.1 on IMDB (Internet Movie Database-If you haven’t checked this site out, you’re missing out on fun and hours of killing time!) Taylor also wrote the screenplay, so I imagine he worked closely with Stockett to illustrate the necessary scenes that depicted the danger of the situation and the growth of the characters.
I was pretty pleased with where they chose to edit or show scenes. I was worried at first, the previews gave off such a humorous overtone, I thought they may have omitted the seriousness and danger that all of the maids were threatened with for sharing their stories. But that’s the power of film, showing a few strong scenes was enough to show the audience the severity of the times during segregation and Jim Crow laws.
They didn’t sugarcoat the characters. It would have been easier to peg Hilly Holbrook as the racist white woman. And she was, but she also was loving to her children, and a strong, powerful woman in the community, which adds its own pressure. And the floozy Celia Foote, could have been dumb as a box of rocks, and she was, but you also saw she came from tough roots, she suffered great losses, and she always thought the best of people. As for the lead, Eugenia (Skeeter) Phelan, she wasn’t just a hero who came to share the help’s stories and save the day. We knew she wanted to find love, please her mother, AND start a career.
If there was a character that could be described as too much one trait, it might be Aibileen Clark, the main maid to work with Skeeter. Then again, this is one of the main arguments about Stockett’s book too, that perhaps Aibileen is too good. I think Taylor and Stockett did a fine job and I love the casting of Viola Davis for this role. Aibileen is the quiet and good friend. But she does express her anger or frustration, but she does so in the true form to her nature. I think this choice about character exemplifies Stockett’s attention to detail. She started the book with Aibileen being the key maid’s voice, but when she needed things to be said that weren’t natural for Aibileen to say, she created a second character, Minny, and Minny is all fuss and vinegar. I love them both!
I truly believe this film will be one you’ll love whether you’ve read the book or not and you’ll love the book if you read it after too, cause there is more to the story. Great cast, great characters, a story I believe needed to be told.
What about you? Have you seen The Help? Can you think of any other examples where they adapted a book into a movie and did an awesome job? Why do you think that was possible?