The Help Movie Review

The Help Movie Review

On Tuesday night, a group of 15 of us went to see The Help, a movie I’ve been waiting to see since I read the book over a year ago. I was a bit happy it’s been awhile since I read the book because sometimes I can get so caught up in what details *I* would have made sure was captured on screen that I can’t enjoyed the movie adaptation. However, I’m sure it helped that I was hoping some things got lost in translation.

(As an aside, I did wear a dress my grandma used to wear.)

I’ll try not to spoil anything for those of you planning to see it, but there will be a minor few. 

The Good

Minny was great. Octavia Spencer did a beautiful job balancing her two-sided role. I think she stole the show for me. Minny had to be my favorite character in the movie, along with Celia Foote. Minny was spunky, really sweet to Aibileen, and did a good job showing when she was trying to be spunky through wanting to be mushy. I was glad that in the movie Celia wasn’t just straight overdone and completely trashy looking. And I’m happy she wasn’t as weird as she was in the book. Celia on screen was actually pretty fabulous in a Marilyn Monroe sorta way–just too much for society ladies in the 60s. That pink dress she has on at the banquet? Yeah, I need that. Jessica Rabbit in the house!

Viola Davis did a good job as well–my favorite scene with her reminded so much of any of the women in my family. She was telling a funny story and she just laughed and laughed, showing off a gold tooth in the back of her mouth. That scene was just so endearing to me, one–because Skeeter didn’t really get the joke but also, two–Aibileen had loosened up a bit and really showed her “at home” self. I also enjoyed Aibileen’s relationship with Mae Mobley, poor little thing. And Mae Mobley sitting on a toilet in Hilly’s yard was just as funny on screen as in the book.

Since the movie really focused on the women in the book, black men weren’t accosted on screen as villains. Of course Minny’s Leroy was a negative character, but it wasn’t reinforced with so many other trifling characters.

Dallas Bryce Howard did a great job of Hilly. She definitely was the rude, conniving, better-than-everyone else (i.e. horty torty) mean girl who bullied and led anyone who’d let her.

I’m sure I glowed when I saw the street sign that said Maple Street. My mom and my mentor grew up near Maple Street. In the movie, though, Maple Street was in the white part of town, so I had to call my mom after the movie to ask her if Maple Street ran through both sides. She said she thinks so. But noone who has any Lanier High Bulldog living in their home will ever be allowed to not know what 833 Maple Street is. *rolling eyes and remembering my mom standing in the center of the vestibule of MY high school (Clinton High) in her maroon Bulldogs t-shirt when she was checking me out to attend the 1997 State Championship basketball game of my school against hers*

I definitely also glowed when Yulemay (played by Aunjanue Ellis, who attended Tougaloo for awhile) said she was sending her twin boys to TOUGALOO. 🙂 I liked that in the movie version Yulemay found the ring–not went actively looking.

Skeeter was a better character on screen than in the book. Instead of seeming so naive and oblivious of what was going on despite the fact that she was a journalism major during this time of turmoil, from the beginning of the movie, she was aware and bothered with the treatment of maids before she realized it was a way to get a NY publisher’s attention.

Skeeter’s mom was played by Allison Janney, and she did a great job of making that character relevant. I really enjoyed her character, even as she reminded me of my family members who ask when I’m getting married, lol. Also, she didn’t make being so old seem SO old. I liked that the movie placed her between a rock (being gracious to her maid) and  a hard place (peer pressure from her social circle) as Constantine was concerned–added a little complexity to that character for me.

Hilly’s mom, played by Sissy Spacek, was hilarious. I loved her. Still don’t understand why she was so old–but if she had to be, Sissy Spacek made it worth the while. My fave scene was as she was leaving the Christmas gala and had a few words with her ugly acting daughter.

I think they did a good job of showing how asinine wanting to make someone who takes care of not only your house but your kids use an outside restroom was. Particularly when Aibileen came out of her “special” restroom without being able to wash her hands to take Mae Mobley out of her mom’s hands. You think it’s nasty to sit on a toilet seat after a black person but not nasty for anyone who hasn’t washed her hands to handle your child? Ohhhh kaaaaay…

Medgar Evers wasn’t bludgeoned in the movie!! He was shot as he was in real life. Thanks, producers, for getting that detail right. Also, the scene where Aibileen had to run and get home–I thought it was pretty ok. But really only because she tripped. That’s the moment that I really felt like there was an urgency to get home to safety. (It also wasn’t really clear to me what she was running from in the movie.)

This isn’t good or bad.. Just an observation. I hope people noticed that the white women who were reading The Help at the end of the movie weren’t reading and getting aha moments about how they treated their maids–they were reading like it was a gossip column. No warm and fuzzy unrealistic kumbaya at the end of this story.

The Not So Good

They didn’t show Skeeter being ostracized the way that would have driven the tension in the time period home. While I don’t think the movie needed to be bogged down with darkness, I don’t think it was clear enough how dangerous Skeeter going to meet Aibileen was.

I would have liked them to spend a little more time on Aibileen’s prayer book. I mean, heck, I started writing in my own prayer book after reading that story. 🙂

Stuart wasn’t impressive. He didn’t have the “swagger” he had in my brain after reading the book. He didn’t have the connections or the social standing. He was just a run of the mill tall guy who thought Skeeter was funny. And I think if he had been a more complex character, their breakup would have been more interesting.

I would have liked more of a back story on why Skeeter and Constantine were so close. When they showed Skeeter’s height marks at Constantine’s house, I just wondered how many people in the theater were wondering why in the world this little girl would have spent so much time at a black woman’s house.

The Worst

From the pictures I’ve seen, the black side of Jackson did not look that bad in the 60s. I was a bit thrown off by how run down all the houses looked in the black neighborhood. They looked like some of those houses look now that they’ve been abandoned and in ill repair for years. I know by the time my mom and dad were between 10-15, they weren’t living in shanty houses. I could be wrong, but I thought that was a bit exaggerated.

Cicely Tyson. Period. She plays the same character in EVERY thing. Ugggggh.

#fail

WHY WAS CONSTANTINE SO OLD? She was old even when Skeeter was a child. GEEZ. I thought it was hilarious when Skeeter told her mom in an accusatory tone that Constantine died of heartbreak because I was thinking no she died because she was ANCIENT. (I also thought it was hilarious and typical that someone would think that a maid’s world revolved around them and worth dying over when they lost a job–not complaining though because I’m sure plenty of people had that misconception. It’s like when Skeeter realized she had never seen Aibileen in regular clothes.)

I have plenty more thoughts, but I think that’s enough for now. If you’ve seen the movie, what did you think? What were your fave parts? Was the movie better? Were there parts you wished were included in the movie? Parts you wished were left out?

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13 thoughts on “The Help Movie Review

  1. Great review Ranada. I was actually talking to a couple of people today and I encouraged them to see the movie before they read the book…since they were planning to read it first. If not, they might feel the same way I did…I was waiting to see some of the story on screen and disappointed that it wasn’t included.

  2. I hated it. I cried when Tyson was fired for nothing. All in that same moment, I began to think about my grandmothers and their accounts of being “the help”. It was disrespectful to my grandmothers and tons of other black women who were maids. This movie had an excellent chance to really dig in and tell an untold story. Gender bias, racial, bias, cheap labor ($0.95 an hour). All those ills could have been aggressively attacked but as always, racial problems are somehow solved with wit and sarcasm. So many ppl were laughing and giggling in the theatre. I left my sense of humor at home. Not funny to me at all. After the movie, I got into a shouting match with my 36 yr old date, who wanted to tell me how I didn’t understand the movie and how out of touch “my generation” is. She is no longer an aquaintance. This movie dropped the ball and missed out on a huge opportunity to tell it right. I yield back.

  3. Great review!! Parts I would have liked for them to include was when Celia beat up the guy at her house. Showed her actual strength more, and that she wasn’t just a dingy blonde. I was shocked when I read that in the book (I read the book after the movie). I don’t like the face that they didn’t portray Constantine’s daughter with the fair skin. Thought that would have been interesting. Actually, I think your comments on Stuart were so fair, that they could have left him out in the movie. He didn’t add anything to it.

    The saddest part to me is when Minny is sending her daughter off to be a maid at 14. Although it was different from the book, I thought that was sentimental touch.

  4. you is kind, you is smart, you is important……that little one was the cutest lil thing. i broke down in tears when Aibileen got fired and Mae Mobley begged her not to go…..i loved it although they lefted out critical parts of what use to really happen back then..

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