Movie/Book Review: The Help

Book: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Movie: The Help directed by Tate Taylor

You will often hear me say that the book is always better than the movie. In this case, the movie was done really well. Often I do the book and movie reviews separate, but the movie followed the book so closely that I figured I would write a double review!

The book/movie is set back in the 1960’s when the civil rights movement was occurring. What is captivating about this book/movie is that while the focus is on the lives of black women, it also subtly touches on the lives of women, in general, during that time. The book illustrates that women in the south were to be seen, not heard. They rarely held jobs in the community. The role of the woman was to be a trophy that men could look at and admire. In reality, the woman’s purpose was to have the babies. The story illustrates a societal drag on women who had ambition. Women who chose to go to college and get an education, were thought to be a little “too worldly.” The book gave the impression that down in the south, men didn’t want to marry a girl who had a lot of opinions on matters that “didn’t concern them.”

The book focuses on a young girl, nicknamed Skeeter, who was freshly out of college with a degree, and whose mother truly wouldn’t be satisfied until she was married. Skeeter came home to find that Constantine, the maid who had raised her, had been fired. In many ways, Constantine, like other maids, was more of a mother to her than her own mother was. Her family would not talk about Constantine’s disappearance, and she was crushed.

Skeeter hoped to become a novelist, but needed to obtain a general writing position to gain experience before anyone would look at her work. Skeeter received a position in the local newspaper writing about cleaning. What did white women know about cleaning back then? It was for the maids to do. She chose to enlist help from the maids of friends. What she ended up learning was the difficult lives these women led, and how much they gave up from their own lives, from raising their own children, in order to be the hired help of white families. This is what she chose to write her novel about.

A difference between the movie and book: In the book there is more focus on the efforts involved in getting these women to tell their stories. They lightly touched on the struggles for black women to come forward with their stories in the movie. This occurred with the camaraderie between Aibileen and Minny, and with Skeeter reading the laws that governed “colored people” in Mississippi. In the book it emphasized to a greater extent, how truly dangerous it was for these women to be speaking to a white woman at all, let alone discuss the hazards, terrible occurrences, and some happy moments while working for white families.

The book and the movie, both touched on the issues of miscarriages, loving good husbands, loving bad husbands, the powerful friendships between women, and women who dreamed of working outside of the home. Women who dreamed of writing.

I won’t give away too much more of the story, as I strongly encourage everyone to read it. I also encourage you to see the movie. It was wonderful! You may laugh. You may certainly cry. You will come out feeling touched. I never thought Emma Stone could even act her way out of a paper bag, but she did superbly well. The actresses, Viola Davis (who played Aibileen), and Octavia Spencer (as Minny) were amazing and powerfully portrayed. Spencer adds a great amount of humor and comedic support in spite of some the tough topics discussed. Truly, Davis and Spencer make the movie great.

One of the ways in which the book touched me was through a line that is so poignant that I have chosen to say it each day to my little girl (with a little part I added for her).

Every day, I say to my Lil Sunshine: “You are Kind. You are Smart. You are Important. You are Wonderful Just the Way You Are!”

Something to remember and teach our young girls, especially in a society that still places an inordinate amount of value upon physical appearance and not the beauty of our minds. Go girls!!! You can do anything!

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