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.


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?

Where History Meets the Future

Where History Meets the Future

Last weekend, I traveled to my hometown of Jackson, MS to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom and to Tougaloo College to perform my annual national alumni board duties as the Atlanta alumni chapter president, Southeastern Regional Representative, and Assistant Secretary of the Board (and yes, I had to take minutes for a three-hour meeting, lol).

Every time I go back to campus, I’m reacquainted with my memories of “coming of age” at Tougaloo. A pretty precocious 16-year-old, I was pretty sure I was making the correct decision by bypassing my senior year to enter college and start pursuing further education in my passion–mathematics–as well as an education in life and an advanced education in black history. Growing up, I was exposed to lots of heritage because my parents were very determined to ensure that I knew about where we’ve come from and what I would endure to get to my future. Attending HBCUs, for summer academic programs and for college, solidified all of that–by showing me that there were lots–i.e. a campus full–of young black scholars with different backgrounds and goals that were still very much like me. This was important to a kid who grew up one of a handful of black kids in the gifted program, the accelerated classes, the AP classes, the academic organizations at a majority white school. I kept wondering–is it really diversity if I’M the diversity? It meant volumes to me to see that I was not an anomaly. In addition, as a math student, it was important that I had professors who made a conscious choice to teach at my institution–not because they had to, but because they cherished the meaning of it–and who made a concerted effort to push students to the cliff and made us jump into our unknown greatness. First, Dr. Raffoul, who was the dean of the math department when I got to Tougaloo, sat down with me in his office and told me that although I hadn’t taken AP Calculus (since I hadn’t been a high school senior), he was confident that I could take Calculus I with a bunch of upperclassmen and excel. It was tough at first, but with help from mentors and my professor, I aced it, setting the stage for several more semesters of pure math training. Fast forward to my sophomore year midway through Differential Equations when Dr. Fahmy, whose opinion I cherish until this day, challenged me because I had been slacking off. We had a conversation that I’ve never forgotten because it shook me to the core. He told me that when I came into his class as a freshman, I was something special–I was going places. But lately, I had been merely mediocre. And if I wanted to settle for mediocrity, that was fine, but surely he wouldn’t be spending so much time supporting me and helping me to find opportunities to shine and prepare for my future. I didn’t cry in front of Dr. Fahmy, but as soon as I passed through his doorway, I bawled from Kincheloe Hall to my room in Berkshire Hall, and I got my stuff together immediately. I got my first B the semester before, but that was the only B he gave me for the rest of my college career–and do believe that I worked for those As.

Congressman Bennie Thompson '68 and Ranada Robinson '02

The other thing that made Tougaloo so special is our tie to black history. Tougaloo was vital to the civil rights movement, and it was nothing extraordinary to have a conversation with someone who was right there in it. As an example, just last weekend, I got history lessons while touring the new Bennie G. Thompson Academic and Civil Rights Center. First, while giving an address at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Congressman Thompson, class of ’68, told us about his time at Tougaloo and how he met while on campus not only his wife, but Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael.

Joan Trumpauer and Anne Moody

Then, while looking at the beautiful photos that adorn the hallways of the building, Dr. Doris Browne, class of ’64 and the VP of the Tougaloo College Board of Trustees (and my Gamma Omicron soror), told me about her time at Tougaloo–she graduated at 18–and her academic decisions after she left! She was friends with the Tougaloo Nine, and she told one of my classmates and me the story of what they did and why. She then pointed out Joan Trumpauer, the first white member of Delta Sigma Theta, who she still knows today (and they both live in the DC area), and Anne Moody. Now, my eyes got big when she said Anne Moody because I read her book Coming of Age in Mississippi when I was in junior high, and she’s always been a historical figure in my head–but not a real person. It really means so much to me that those kinds of conversations are commonplace if you’re interested.

Finally, the connections are invaluable. I meet someone new every time I visit the yard, and more often than not, seasoned alumni are happy to give encouragement and advice to students and younger alums. After the TCNAA meeting on Saturday morning, I met Eddie Irions, class of ’60, who is the Memphis chapter president. He told me how he’s revived the Memphis chapter and gave me suggestions on how to meet my goals with the Atlanta chapter. He gave me this quote, that I’ve been chewing on ever since:

Inch by inch, it’s a cinch… By the yard, it’s hard.

Simple, but so resounding because I’m the queen of wanting to get it done NOW. But I’m learning that some things just take time and small steps, and I’m happy that a fellow math graduate took the time to have a 30 minute impromptu conversation with me because he wants to see us succeed.

This is the testimony of an HBCU graduate. Despite the advice of my high school counselors to stay my senior year and see who else offers me money (simple answer–any school to which I would have applied) and the advice of people who thought a 16-year old on campus was a bad idea, I absolutely made the right decision. The time and dedication and effort put into students at HBCUs and maintaining ties to our values while forging ahead with 21st century initiatives (omg, Tougaloo has so much in the works!!) are truly noteworthy. No, HBCUs aren’t perfect, but what institution is? It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just a place to fill our brains with more information (although Tougaloo, for one, does a very spectacular job doing so, ;))–but it’s also a place to fill our hearts and spirits with motivation, self-confidence, a strong identity, and meaningful connections.

Now, it’s just up to us to support our institutions–it’s up to us to make sure that they maintain viability and that we encourage continued relevance. Alumni giving and community support are imperative to ensuring that our institutions are able to train our children for the world–building and expanding networks, encouraging entrepreneurship, finding more and more avenues for research and innovation, but most of all, providing them with the foundational skills and knowledge that are necessary for critical thought and good decision-making. They’re our schools and our future. As President Bevery Wade Hogan said this weekend:

If the people who know you best don’t invest, why would anyone else?

Let’s make it happen.