“The Help”: Page to Screen

The other night my sister and I filed into the movie theater along with 15 book clubs and listened to the moms argue about where to sit and why Debbie moved half the club three rows down when they specifically chose their seats based on her seating preferences. Quality entertainment, I must say. But, fortunately, the movie upstaged them.

If you read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, I think you’ll love the movie adaptation of it. If you didn’t read the book, it’s hard to say. I really enjoyed it, but I couldn’t get the book out of my head, so I’m wondering if the plot line would be hard to follow and seem somewhat disjointed to someone who didn’t already know the story.

But since I can’t know for sure, I’ll just talk about why I liked the movie. The best part of it, for me, was the acting. Emma Stone is great as Skeeter Phelan. She manages to be awkward yet confident, and she really pulls off a southern accent. There’s something likable about Emma Stone and it translated to this character – you can’t help but love Skeeter in this movie.

In fact, I think all of the actresses fit their parts. Bryce Dallas Howard plays stuck-up Hilly perfectly, Octavia Spencer uses just enough sass to bring Minny to life, Jessica Chastain made Celia Foote one of the most lovable characters in the movie, and I loved Viola Davis as Aibileen. Aibileen is my favorite character in the book because she is the bridge between the two worlds – white and black. And Davis captures the essence of Aibileen the way it’s written in the book – a quiet force. Sissy Spacek is hilarious as Missus Walters. Though she’s a minor character in the book, Missus Walters’ serves as much needed comic relief in the movie.

One character that intrigued me in the book was Skeeter’s mother. Based on her actions, you want to dislike Mrs. Phelan because she’s bossy and pretentious, and mostly because of what she does to Skeeter’s childhood maid, Constantine. But Stockett keeps us from hating her by showing us the good in Mrs. Phelan’s intentions and how much she really loves her daughter. Skeeter’s forgiveness toward her mother also keeps her from becoming a villain. Allison Janney definitely picked up on this because she plays the character, not as a mean woman, but just as a nagging mother. You have to like her character because nothing that she does is malicious – she’s just stuck in her ways.

Like any book-to-movie adaptation, some parts were left out, and some of the events were out of order. But all the essential pieces were there. I also really liked the look of the movie. It was almost cartoonish with the women’s big hair and colorful clothing. This was perfect because while the story does explore some dark themes, it’s meant to be uplifting – and I definitely left the theater in a happy mood.

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