Tag Archives: The Help

My Week With Marilyn and The Help

Hi Everyone!  First of all a BIG THANK YOU, I mean it, A HUGE ONE, to all the readers and commenters of my last two guest posts.  You all made Jenny Hansen and Marcy Kennedy feel so welcome.  Thanks!

What, you missed them?  Well, allow me to give you directions.  You can find Jenny talking about definitions of love here and Marcy talking about overcoming anything for 30 seconds here!  Enjoy!

But today, we’re talkingOscars again!  I’m reviewing two films with Best Actress Nominees, and these are leading ladies you won’t want to miss!

The Nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role are:

  • Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs
  • Viola Davis for The Help
  • Rooney Mara for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams for My Week With Marilyn

(source: teaser-trailer.com)

My Week With Marilyn

Based on the memoir by Colin Clark, My Week With Marilyn captures the film shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl, which starred Monroe opposite Laurence Olivier (played by fellow Oscar Nominee Kenneth Branagh).  Clark was a young man avoiding more sensible routes of adulthood, by earning himself a position as third Assistant Director on the set.  The film shooting took place shortly after Monroe’s marriage to author, Arthur Miller (who wrote the classic Death of a Salesman).

What Michelle Williams manages to portray are the polar opposites of celebrity poster child and girl interrupted.  Granted, this is all taken from the diary Clark kept while filming, so we only see his perception.  But we know enough about Marilyn’s tumultuous life and her struggle to feel loved.  On film, she stole the viewer’s hearts and they couldn’t take their eyes off her.  Behind the scenes, she worked diligently, albeit not timely, with an acting coach and whether she knew it or not, probably needed someone to take care of her.

The film, My Week With Marilyn, isn’t exactly a love story, but perhaps its players would say so.  Though Monroe was newly married, she began an affair with Clark, who probably never had a real girlfriend before.  That’s quite a coupling!  Michelle Williams is stunning in her doe eyed, young Marilyn and impressed me by doing her own singing in the film.  She is gorgeous and I think well deserving of this nomination.  How does one begin to embody an epic Hollywood starlet like Marilyn Monroe?  I think Williams got it right!

(source: imdb.com)

The Help

Nominated for several awards including Best Supporting Actresses Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain, Best Picture, and Viola Davis for Lead Actress, The Help is a film to contend with.

Viola is quickly becoming a favorite actress of mine.  From small scenes in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to this starring role, she proves again and again she’ll do what’s needed and what’s right for the character.  What’s more, I caught the end of the SAG Awards (Screen Actor’s Guild) and both Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer won, as well as the Cast won Outstanding Performance in a Motion Picture.  When Davis got up to speak she said this film was truly a story where everyone came together, and having such a large cast, it was remarkable how they all came to work and made this movie happen, no egos, no demands, just working together.

Davis plays Aibileen, the Godly and good maid who cares for white people’s children.  The story of The Help is set during the civil rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi.  New graduate, Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, returns home to Jackson and doesn’t understand the segregation going on around her.  She decides to write a book from The Help’s perspective.  What follows is a beautiful and strong friendship caught on film through the acting of Davis and Spencer, who plays Minny, the much MUCH  more outgoing and sassy maid.

This film, largely in part to its actors, will make you laugh so hard you could choke on your popcorn if you’re not careful, but it also will make you unnerved and moved in a very real way.  Both Davis and Spencer, and even Chastain, have done exceptionally well, being nominated in almost every award ceremony, and winning several more.  They are strong performances to beat, but I wonder if those awards cancel them out for the Oscars?  Will this be the year Meryl’s name gets called?  I don’t know, but Viola and Octavia are two women who have earned their nominations!

Your turn!  What films have you seen nominated for the Oscars?  Which leading lady are you rooting for?  Who would play you in your own Oscar worthy life story?

The Best Books of 2011

The last couple of years I hadn’t been reading very much.  Here and there I’d start a new book, but it would take me forever to read it and I usually just watched movies instead.  For 2011 I was determined to read more.  I vowed to read 2 books a month, and I ended up reading 28.  I enjoyed all of them, but here are the creme de la creme of books I read this past year.

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Based on the historical legend that a woman disguised herself as a man and became one of the most influential popes of the Vatican’s history.  Pope Joan is both a historical drama, suspense novel, and romance.  As a young girl, Joan learned to read and write, an education forbidden to women in 800 AD.  The author definitely did her research finding the few facts we know about Pope Joan.  Of course, the Vatican denies her existence, but because of this, the story of Pope Joan is all the more intriguing.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This book was a complete surprise for how raw and open the author was in this memoir of growing up.  The book begins with her in a cab watching her own mother pick through a dumpster.  Now that’s a scene that will evoke emotion in a reader.  The Glass Castle is really about a family, their ups and downs, the realities and the truest form of magic that exists in Walls’ phenomenal storytelling.  A must read for any author considering writing a memoir.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This might have been my favorite book of 2011.  I am both immensely impressed with the amount of research this author did on early circuses and her story in general.  She was haled by critics for her ability to write an elderly character’s voice and her characters created for the traveling circus were priceless.  Water for Elephants is a romance and a tale of finding oneself.  It sets you in a world of mystery and hard work.  It inspired a road trip to the Circus World Museum, a place where Gruen began some of her research!  This was a book I could not put down!

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

I read this book in my book club and we had such a fun time discussing the themes of spirits, witches, and magic.  The synopsis of this book, which was inspired by the author’s doctorate research, is a graduate student who discovers an ancestor’s physick book, or medicine book, or book of magic.  As Connie uncovers more about her own family, she’ll learn more than she wants to about the powers within it, but she has to do so before her professor takes matters into his own hands.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I guess I like books with stories behind the stories.  I love looking into how the author’s do their research, and for Stockett, she began this book after September 11th.  She needed to hear a voice that was comforting again, and the voice she thought of was the maid that raised her when she was young.  Thinking about what life must have been like for her is the premise for the story of The Help.  Set early in the civil rights movement, The Help takes on a variety of voices, from the soft spoken and ethical Aibileen, to the no holds barred Minny, and the idealistic, coming of age Skeeter.  Everyone I know who’s read this book has loved it.  If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Um.  Ok, The Hunger Games.  They ruled.  What more do you want me to say?  The movie comes out in March and I’ll be there.  I’m Team Gale.  I do not condone the growing trend of naming your kids Bella or Katniss.  But I Love These Books.

The Doctor’s Lady by Jody Hedlund

I had read Jody’s blog before, but not her books.  I won this title in a contest and I couldn’t put it down!  I would’ve never pegged myself as a christian historical romance reader, but I was swooning by page three over Eli Ernest, the rough rider doctor who sets foot towards the new west crossing the Oregon Trail.  And Priscilla White is no weakling, prairie marm.  She may have lots to learn, but she will prove herself to be a tough and strong-willed companion.  I can’t wait to read to Jody’s first book, The Preacher’s Bride this year!

There you have it!  My favorite reads from 2011.  What books were your favorite?  What’s next on your “to read” list?

By the way, the winner of my Life List Club blog post and receiver of an I-Tunes Gift Card and chance to guest post or interview here is Marcy Kennedy!   Congratulations, Marcy, be contacting you soon!

Film Review: The Help

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? 

Book Review: The Help

Have any of you read The Help by Kathryn Stockett?  I recently finished it and though I really liked the book on its own, I started liking it even more after reading the author’s note and reviews.  I’m fascinated by the ongoing debate this book has started about racial etiquette in writing.

Stockett, was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, the setting of her fiction novel.  She and her siblings were raised by black help, and she felt the closest to her nanny, Demetrie.  Stockett’s nanny never had any children of her own, but referred to the Stockett family children as hers.  It was the nagging wonder of what happened to Demetrie and how did she feel working for a white family that pushed Stockett to write this book.

I love dipping into author’s research behind their books (need I remind you just how far I go, see here and here).  Other than her personal account, Stockett says she did interview one white woman and her maid who were together during the civil rights movement.  Their perspectives, she said, were interesting because the white woman’s fondest memory of her maid involved the pralines she would make, while her maid remembers working for her at the time of Medgar Evers‘ assassination and being worried she would lose her job if her employer turned the TV on to see her children at the protests.

Author Kathryn Stockett

Stockett’s author website only provides the basic info, but her interview with TIME magazine is fascinating.  She began writing The Help the day after September 11th.  She was living in New York City and the phones were all down, she couldn’t call anyone to tell them she was ok.  She started writing in a voice that felt like home.  That voice based on Demetrie, according to Stockett, became the leading character Aibileen in her novel.  When the need for Aibileen to speak up in a way that wasn’t true to her nature arose, she created the second key maid character, Minny.

Now, Stockett has appeared rather passive in her later interviews on the book’s success and how it depicts racial segregation in the 1960’s south.  I thought it was very honest of her to admit her feelings about the criticism of her novel that is happening since the novel has gone widespread through book clubs and reviews.

I wonder, Was this really my story to tell? On the other hand, I just wanted the story to be told. But the truth is that I didn’t think anybody was going to read it. Had I known it was going to be so widely disseminated I probably wouldn’t have written it in the type of language that I did.

But the story goes deeper.  Stockett is now in the middle of a lawsuit with her brother’s maid, a woman named Ablene Cooper.  She says the character Aibileen Clark is based on her, and she was specifically told by Stockett that her likeness and self would not appear in the book.  ABC news was unable to get the author’s comments on this matter.  Her father was interviewed and though he claims neutrality between his children, he doesn’t think Ablene Cooper will win and that this media stir-fry will only up book sales for Stockett.  Whether the claim is true or not, some critics have brandished Stockett for trying to write from the voice of a black woman in the 1960’s.
Who’s right?  Stockett is now in the process of writing her second novel, and she says she is looking at it through entirely different eyes.
It’s a scary process. I sit in my little office and I feel like I’ve got all my readers staring at me. The first book you write because of the way it makes you feel. The second one you can’t help but wonder how it’s going to make the reader feel. That’s something I’d never thought about before.

The book is soon to be released as a movie starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer.  Set to come out this month, I’m sure people will flock to the theaters to see what all the buzz is about.  I myself am planning to see it.  The trailer seems to depict a very comical side of the book, and I’m interested to see how they do include the more saddening aspects, such as what was happening in history with Jim Crow laws and civil rights protests.
Having read the book and delved into the arguments that surround these characters and their author, I say it’s a great piece of fiction.  By writing from the perspective of three characters, Stockett gave depth to the story.  And had she attempted to tell this story from only the perspective of the one white girl in Jackson who thought something needed to be done, it would’ve been just that, the story of one white girl who thought something needed to be done.  It was Aibileen’s story that drew me in, but I’m smart enough as a reader to know it’s a piece of fiction.  I wouldn’t presume to say this is how all black maids felt. I think it’s inevitable that this argument happened, but are we nitpicking the dialogue to overshadow the true message?  I don’t know.
Have you read The Help?  Have you read other works where the author writes in a voice or race different than their own?  How important is it to have researched your characters when you’re writing about a historical time?  Did Stockett do that well enough?  What do you think?
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