The Help * * * * *
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
MOMS film journalist
in local theaters: August 10, 2011
Labels: Movie Reviews, Reviews