‘The Help’ Serves Laughs and Tears
Based on the best selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, The Help is a successful novel-turned-film that produces laughs, tears, cheers as well as the opportunity to reflect on how we treat people.
Set in Civil Rights Movement Jackson, Mississippi, it tells the story of new college graduate Skeeter Phelan, played by Emma Stone, as she strives to become a professional writer. Although proud of landing the Miss Myrna cleaning column in the Jackson newspaper, she seeks a higher purpose and one she knows more about. She decides to write a collection of stories about Jackson housewives from the perspective of the black maids employed in so many of their households, like hers when she was growing up. This is easier imagined than accomplished. Skeeter encounters deep-rooted prejudices steeped in history, tradition, pride and fear. But two brave maids agree to share their lives with her, taking a huge risk to meet with a white lady and tell all their secrets about what it’s like to work for white folks and raise their children.
This film delivers both to those who have read the novel and those who have not. For those who have, the characters were perfectly cast and come alive just as I imagined them, a difficult feat for an avid reader as I am. Though I love novels and I love film, crossing the two rarely works to my satisfaction. This one did beyond my expectations.
Bryce Dallas Howard plays Hilly Holbrook, the society princess whose lofty and often racist example so many of the women follow, with just the right combination of witchiness and vulnerability to create the perfect love/hate feeling toward her. Jessica Chastain plays Celia Foote brilliantly, her naïve gumption and earnest trying both lovable and pitiful. Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek and Cicely Tyson all add masterful takes on their characters as well. And the two maids, Viola Davis as Abilene and Octavia Spencer as Minnie Jackson, steal the show with their heart-bearing, honest, sometimes hilarious but always soulful performances.
This story both tickles the funny bone and breaks the heart. I can only see it from the perspective of the very white girl that I am, so I cannot comment on the spattering of controversy tainting the reviews about this kind of role for black women these days being degrading or going backwards. I don’t know about that.
What I can say is, however, that The Help makes me think about how I treat anyone, no matter race or social status or anything else. It drives me to respect all living beings, maintain personal humility, and remember that we’re all God’s creation. No need to degrade or trample anyone else for any reason. Serving and loving one another is as good as any of us are ever gonna get.
I recommend reading AND watching The Help. Both novel and film are well done and worth your time!
For those seeking a good action flick with as much heart but a little more grit, check out The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I did not want to see this one, but went with my husband who did. I was glad I saw it. A great story with good performances and a huge dose of very cool CGI. Andy Serkis as Caesar the ape is mind-blowing in the sense that we live in a day and age in which that kind of technology is possible.
Happy Movie Watching, Billings!
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