24/7 MOMS

Friday, August 26, 2011

Movie Review - The Help

The Help * * * * *
A first time novelist, Kathryn Stockett, who never gave up looking for the right literary agent, a tenacious film director, Tate Talyor, and a new song by Mary J Blige transforms an unforgettable motion picture production onto the big screen in The Help.

Five years in the making and sixty rejection letters from literary agents, first time novelist, Kathryn Stockett asks childhood friend now filmmaker, Tate Taylor to critique her manuscript. She knew her friend would give honest advice to either give up on the project or seek other options for publication.  Taylor devoured the document called The Help.  His reaction to Stockett, “This is fantastic. You cannot give up… this will be published. If it doesn’t, I’ll make it into a movie.” As we now know the rest is history.

In 2009, “The Help” was published by Penguin Books. A passionate literary audience allowed it to stay on the New York Times bestseller list for 103 weeks running and six of the weeks were in the No. 1 spot. Taylor and mutual friend, producer Brunson Green worked to acquire the film rights to “The Help” (with Stockett’s blessing, of course) while Taylor began to adapt the novel into a screenplay. The most difficult job Taylor addressed was to get the first 200 pages of the novel into 20-25 minutes of the script. He lived and breathed Stockett’s story not from reading it more than thirteen times, but mainly because he was from Jackson, Mississippi. He understood the racial tensions that frightened and paralyzed communities. Though Stockett and Taylor were raised in the 70s--unlike The Help’s characters of the60s—racial discrimination was still visible for their generation to observe. Taylor worked hard to write a script worthy of Stockett’s message. The box office sales tells us that his hard work paid off to write one of the most intelligent scripts for a big screen project to date.

Stockett’s story begins in the 1960s when one of Jackson, Mississippi’s hometown girls, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) returns home, as a college graduate, to find work. Skeeter earned a degree in journalism with aspirations to become a writer. Unlike her married high-society girlfriends from the Jr. League society, Skeeter follows her dream. In spite of her singleness, is hired by the local newspaper to write the Miss Myrna cleaning-hints column, Skeeter shares her good fortune at the Jr. League Bridge group only to be ridiculed. They can’t imagine Skeeter knowing what they know about a clean household if not married nor raising children. Feeling shunned she ignores the unkind remarks though in reality she knew some truth was behind their words.

Overwhelmed by the back log of letters for the Miss Myrna column, Skeeter seeks help. Skeeter needed advice from a professional and who better to ask than those she knew in the hired help business. She asks Aibileen (Viola Davis) who is the hired help of girlfriend, Jolene French (Anna Camp). Her column needed the best expertise available. Skeeter wanted to enlist her own family’s hired help, Constantine (Cicely Tyson), but she had moved away before Skeeter returned from college. Though saddened by the absence of Constantine, Skeeter needed immediate help because her job was on the line. Jolene reluctantly allows the working arrangement between the two until longtime friend, Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) interferes. Appalled at the frightening and inhumane treatment toward the hired help her girlfriends employ, Skeeter births an idea for her first literary masterpiece. She attempts to tell about life from the perspective of the hired help employed by the white households in Jackson, Mississippi. This is a scandalous venture! Nothing like it had been written prior and though the book editor from New York is skeptical Skeeter can pull it off, she remains open and encourages her to proceed.  Skeeter’s bold and courageous idea seems providential and with the rise of Martin Luther King’s popularity; she knows she has a story.

Her task is to recruit the right people willing to put their jobs (and possibly their lives) on the line to tell their stories. The horrific discrimination toward the black community from portions of Jackson, Mississippi’s white community is driven by an evil force beginning to spiral out of control. Change is imminent but at what cost? The educated and optimistic Skeeter embarks on a group project in secret with hired help, Aibileen and Minny (Octavia Spencer) who is Aibileen’s outspoken best friend. Skeeter is confident positive change will come by documenting their stories and getting them right. And, for some white folk, it’s payback time!

Karen Pecota
24/7 MOMS film journalist
Released in local theaters: August 10, 2011
Movie rating: PG

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Blogger corinne said...

Loved the book..Am still waiting to see the movie next week!

August 26, 2011 at 2:16 PM  

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