The Help: A movie review

August 10, 2011

in Uncategorized

The Help MovieI often judge a movie by the number of times I check my watch during the showing of it. Score with this 2+ hour film?

Zero.

That means it’s a terrific movie that I fully engaged with. And my children, 10 and 8, were as rapt as I was.

I reviewed Kathryn Stockett’s book, The Help, when it came out in 2009 and I predicted it would be successful. I jumped at the chance for the three of us to preview the movie last week (disclosure: my children and I attended a free pre-screening). The film opens in theaters today.

I loved the characters: Skeeter, a recent journalism graduate; Aibileen, a black maid who has a special talent in raising white children (who grow up to become her employers); and Minnie, Aibileen’s friend and also a maid, whose sass gets her into all sorts of trouble.

I loved the setting: Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960. Think Mad Men meets Jim Crow. I was born in this time period and I never tire of seeing what kitchens, cars and fashions were like when my mom was raising my sisters and me. My children thought items such as a rotary-dial phone mounted on the wall and a typewriter were SO COOL. They were amusingly puzzled in a short scene that featured Wite-Out.

The Help Movie SkeeterThe premise: Skeeter is the only one of her society sisters to notice there is something very wrong about the treatment of the “help” in their households, as well as the unseen lines between races and classes that everybody assumes are real. Despite the stifling social codes that separate them, Skeeter, Aibileen and Minnie decide to tell their stories, risking all to make a subtle change in awareness of imaginary lines.

The film sparked quite a discussion on our drive home. We talked about racism, about courage, about how important it is to know what’s right and then to act on it, no matter what people around you are doing.

The acting was superb. I always love Allison Janney (Skeeter’s mom), and enjoyed the performance of Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron’s daughter (of Opie fame) as the sinister mean girl Miss Hilly. Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minnie fully become their characters, and Emma Stone was fine as Skeeter. Cecily Tyson and Sissy Spacek have small but pivotal roles.

There are criticisms about both the book and the film regarding dialect and how a white woman is required to give voice to the black women. There is probably some validity to this criticism.

But if the full-house pre-screening we attended is any indication, a majority of film-goers will come out of the theater with high praise for the flick, as did my children and me.

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My friend and fellow MileHighMama Gretchen also reviewed The Help. See what she has to say about the film.

Images: The Help Movie Official Site

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Kymberli August 10, 2011 at 7:57 am

I read the book this summer, and I cannot wait to see the film. It’s good to know that your 8 and 10 year olds enjoyed it, too. I think I’ll have some discussion about some of the underlying themes with my 8 and 10 year olds and then take them to see it with me.

Like you, I’ve also read a lot of the critcism concerning this book. I know of many Black women who turned their noses up at the book and are all but boycotting the film, all based on the assumption that the book wouldn’t have been nearly as succesful if a Black woman had written it. They say that it’s over-hyped because like you said, they think it’s only special because it’s a White woman giving a voice to Black issues.

I say that’s just a reverse of similar discriminations towards Blacks, and that type of attitude is counterproductive and misses the overall point: is a voice of Black ’60′s era “help” being heard? Yes, it is, and it is done well, in my opinon.. I don’t care what the color of the skin is of the person who’s doing the talking.

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Esperanza August 10, 2011 at 8:38 am

Oh! I’m so glad you liked the movie. I really liked the book (though I felt the ending kind of fizzled out) and was hoping that the movie would be good as well. Of course getting to see it in the theater is probably not going to happen – I get to do that a couple times a year and it takes much planning and careful orchestration. I might have to wait for DVD for this one, we shall see. But that’s okay. I’m more patient about these things now. I guess mothers have to be.

Thanks for the review! I’m so thrilled it’s good!

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gretchen from lifenut August 10, 2011 at 9:35 am

This was a great review. I love reading your point of view and I’m so happy you liked it and that you took your sweet kiddos. Now, I can read it, thanks to a certain someone who loaned her copy to me. ;)

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Chris Bird August 10, 2011 at 10:36 am

Lori, your review is so eloquent. You should be reviewing for Variety! You’re right about the time just flying by… I couldn’t believe it had been 2 hours when it was over and I just wanted more!

Like you, I love watching films set in the time period I was born and imagine myself running around on the Linoleum floors in diapers while my Mom makes Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

Love that you were able to see the movie with you kids and laughing about their confusion over the Wite-Out. Too funny!

Wonderful review!

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Kir August 10, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I cannot wait to see this movie with my best friend. I know it will become a favorite just like the book is. so glad you enjoyed it, now I’m looking forward to it even more (or I wish we could have seen it together ;)

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a August 10, 2011 at 8:50 pm

I just saw a preview for the movie, and now I must get the book! Glad to hear that you thought both were quite good.

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Seriously?! August 10, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Currently reading the book!!! So I barely scanned what you wrote because I don’t want to ruin anything, but I am so relieved that all is well. Hopefully I’ll finish soon.

I just loooooooooooooove it!

I wonder if I can do it as a read-a-loud for my grade 6/7 class this fall? Hmm.

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tera August 11, 2011 at 11:16 am

My father grew up in this era and had a Black nanny/housekeeper/cook. She was perceived as a member of their family. My grandma gave her some lump some for a retirement fund when she no longer needed her assistance. The whole family remained in touch with her until her death. My father still speaks fondly of her and will never forget all the love and care she gave him.

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Jamie August 11, 2011 at 11:28 am

That is so great to hear! I was absolutely in love with the book so when I heard they were making a movie adaptation, I really hoped it would do the book justice. I can’t wait to see it!!

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Quiet Dreams August 11, 2011 at 11:30 am

Loved the book and am planning to take my sister to the movie as her birthday present. Thanks for this review!

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St. Elsewhere August 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm

So, if I get my hands on the book or watch the movie, I will keep your review in mind….

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Dresden August 13, 2011 at 8:00 am

I will now confess that I liked the book but didn’t LOVE it. I did enjoy the movie more. It was a very familiar story to me and at times it totally hit the nail on the head and other times it felt cartoony. I do like that it is fostering some interesting conversations about race.

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Jjiraffe August 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Thanks for the review: I really want to see it, but I’m getting dragged to the “Rise of The Planet of the Apes” movie instead.

I don’t understand the ubiquitous Emma Stone. She is, like you said, “fine” in everything I’ve seen. Huh. Can’t wait to see Viola, Octavia and Bryce, though.

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April August 24, 2011 at 11:02 am

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I could barely put the book down. I’m hoping to go and see it this weekend, if I can convince a friend to go with me.

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loribeth August 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm

I loved both the book & the movie, & I’m glad you did too! OK, the storyline is slightly improbable (that a girl like Skeeter would have written a book like that then) — but that’s why they call is fiction, right? And I think it’s opened up some interesting discussions & awareness that might not have happened otherwise. It was an online book club pick for a scrapbooking board I’m on, mostly Canadian women. Some of them were absolutely shocked by the racism in the book; they had no idea this had all really happened.

I thought it was very well acted too. I’m hoping Oscar will remember Viola Davis & Octavia Spencer later this year. ; )

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susan January 8, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Actually white out was invented in 1951.

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