Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Help: A Review

It is very rare that I ever enjoy a film as much as the novel it has been based on. By very rare I mean never; until I watched the film adaptation of The Help. 

In 2009 Kathryn Stockett published her novel The Help. I'll be honest; I had never heard of the book (gasp) until I saw previews at the cinema. Being my book-loving self I felt I would be committing an unforgivable sin if I saw the film prior to reading the book. So, naturally I read it. Stockett translates the life of a small town Jackson beautifully. I won't delve into the plot or individual characters because nothing I  write could ever do any of it justice. I can often judge how good a book not by its cover but by  the amount of time it takes me to read it.  The Help took two days. The voices of all the characters feel real. Amongst the serious nature of the story there are lighthearted moments which develop even greater insight into the help and their world. I am not usually a sucker for these kind of best selling novels, however something, somewhere in the novel resonated with me. (Please note;  read this book it is well worth it.  Also, preferably read before you see the film). 

When I enjoy a book so immensely, I often watch the movie with little to no expectations. It is difficult for a director to capture in two hours what an author spent endless hours trying to express. I often feel it is one simple passage, one phrase, perhaps even one sentence that connects are reader to the text. Something, which a director and indeed the box office can miss. However The Help was different. Director Tate Taylor easily transferred the complex relationships between both the maids and their employers. By the end of the film it is transparent to the audience that the white women (while unwilling to admit it) could never live without their help. 

Often I despise films which alter add and generally screw with the the original text. Not this time, I felt most discrepancies between the text and film could be justified. In most cases the changes made where irrelevant to me and my connection with the story. There have been arguments that the film adaptation has made 'white people' good, noble and generally awesome. I acknowledge this is partially true. Many of the white female characters are depicted as more moral and rosy on the big screen. However this didn't change the story for me. To me the novel was never about 'white people' showing nobility and moral judgement but black society demonstrating courage.

Someone told me, the movie works because every person enjoys hearing about struggles for civil rights which end well. In all honestly, Stockett's novel and Taylor's film adaption will always be much more than a story about civil rights for me. It is one of friendship, courage and power of the written word. 

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