The Help (based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett)
Screenplay by Tate Taylor
Greetings, No Labels here!
I confess: I haven’t read the book that this movie is based on. I will raise the question if it makes me want to. I’ll wait until I’ve fully done my review before I answer.
Synopsis: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
There was a heap of controversy surrounding the book and the movie. The Association of Black Women Historians took particular issue with the movie, saying that it “trivialized and distorted the experiences of black domestic workers.”
More on their thoughts in this article: The Controversy Over The Help
The controversy piqued my interest, but I did hesitate with checking out the movie for a few reasons:
1. Would this be yet another movie about the evils of Mississippi? I know that Mississippi is one of the worst offenders of racism out there, but so is Alabama. So is Georgia, yet none of them get nearly as much shine as Mississippi. (That’s a whole different topic altogether, which I won’t bring into this conversation.)
2. I kept hearing that the perspective was going to be told from the white lady’s point of view. I was a bit confused: What would a white lady know about what a black domestic worker had to go through in those days? Did she really have the right to tell the stories if she had not gone through it herself? It’s one thing to sympathize; it’s another thing to go through it.
After a while, I did decide to give it a look, mainly because I am a fan of Viola Davis: not only in the way she carries herself but I have a lot of respect for her acting ability. Plus, she had gotten so much praise for how she played the role, although people were still a bit critical that she had to be a “maid” in order to get proper recognition for her talent.
Usually, I like to start off with the likes, followed by the dislikes. This time around, I want to do things a bit differently.
One of the things that I do find fault with (and I am actually in agreement with The Association of Black Women Historians on this) is how The Help was marketed. It was marketed as a “progressive story of triumph over racial injustice.”
I take issue with it because although it hinted at the things which occurred, I didn’t really see any revolutionary type events, apart from the maids coming forward to tell their stories, that indicated the issue was being tackled or “racial injustice” was triumphed.
In addition, not all maids have the “nurturing and connectivity factor” with the children in white households. I’m not saying the experience cannot happen. I know with my grandmother, who served as a domestic worker, that it was not always the case or the situation. In some parts, the relationship seemed overly romanticized, which is why I feel people should not take this as the predominant accurate representation of how things were in the South, particularly Mississippi.
Also, the dialect was slightly off, but unless you were actually from that part of the South (which I am), outsiders wouldn’t pick up on it. Some of the talk/twang leaned closer to Alabama than Mississippi.
Let’s talk about what I adored about this movie.
I liked the “go-getter” (although slightly naive) attitude of Skeeter. I dig the fact that she’s unconventional: she knew that she didn’t want the whole settling down, getting married, and only being fit to have someone’s babies.
The chemistry between Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer) was beautifully done. I had an appreciation for both characters.
Aibileen had a quiet way about her. She’s very introspective. She hurts, yet she has a way of being there and being the listening ear to everyone around her. I saw (and still see) so much of Aibileen’s character in me.
Minny served as the exact opposite: very outspoken and often doesn’t think before she acts. Yet Aibileen appreciates that Minny reacts in ways that only play out in Aibileen’s mind. The trick that Minny pulled on her previous employer served as one of the highlights of the movie.
I think that if it weren’t for the shift: where Aibileen decided to tell the story from her own perspective, my interest would not have remained. It would have felt like just another outside trying to tell the story. The fact that Aibileen shared her stories gave this work its power: it gave Aibileen power as well as the ability to begin healing in her own way.
This is a story of triumph, not necessarily of racial injustice but on other things:
1. A “That Serves You Right” for any domestic worker who has been treated unfairly by an employer (that “last laugh” factor)
2. Exposure to the unfair conditions of domestic workers in Mississippi and being able to talk about it without full backlash
3. Steps of closure and the maids’ feeling like they were heard: letting others know they were not alone
4. Skeeter being able to write and talk about things she really cared about, making small changes in the fabric of Mississippi life
After careful deliberation, I award The Help 5 Stars.
Based on character connectivity and the triumphs outlined, I highly recommend The Help. This is a story that needed to be shared, and it makes you want to check out the book. If anything, it definitely put a spotlight on the relationship between domestic worker and employer.
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