Last night I went to see the much anticipated movie of a most beloved book; THE HELP. I had my doubts just from watching the previews as there seemed to be a lot of light and fluffy semi-comedic moments for a decidedly non-light and fluffy topic. I went in sceptical, working hard to open my mind and just let the movie unfold in an un-biased way.
Movies (and books) like THE HELP are important as reminders to all of us of our not so distant past here in the USA. They are perspective awakeners of how bloody easy we have it and HAVE had it as white women compared to the black women portrayed in the movie and many in real life.
There was laughter in certain places that was justified. There was laughter in places that I thought – Why are we laughing? This isn’t funny at all. We were laughing due to our discomfort at an awkward situation in a really screwed up racial domination scenario. We were laughing because it seemed so absurd that women or people could behave this way towards another woman or person. When I stopped my laugh and thought clearly, I was horrified.
I was disappointed in the brevity of the lead white female. I didn’t believe that she really cared deep down in her gut what happened or had happened to the women she was interviewing. I believed the characters portraying the “Help”, however. Viola Davis as Aibileen was the heart of the movie.
I could give a crap about Skeeter’s priveledged life-style. I wanted to know about Aibileen’s life. I wanted to get inside that world. That’s where the story is. But the book was written from the outside by a white woman, because that was what the author knew. She can never know the interior of a black woman’s story. Truly. And I can’t fault the book’s author, Kathryn Stockett, for that.
It was just that seeing the book moving across the screen I realized a certain shallowness to the story overall, which is something for me to say considering I basically made everyone I know read it.
Why, in the end, is it that Minnie and Aibileen are both emotionally supporting the white women in their lives? Minnie helps Celia Foote become a better wife and Aibeleen and Minnie at the end both encourage Skeeter to go off and begin her new life in New York while they stay behind to clean up the post-book mess. Who helped them? Did they help themselves by offering up their stories for the book? Who is their HELP? Why did I not come away with these same questions after reading the book?
I knew the plot line going in and yet I came away from the movie feeling deflated and disappointed seeing a story I really loved revealed to me in a new and shallow way. It’s still an important story to be read and seen. Maybe one young girl will come away from it with a new understanding or the first time awakening of our tarnished American history.
On a positive, albeit shallow, note – the costumes were fantastic and the women (every single one of them) were epically beautiful. It’s worth the price of admission just to see them float across the screen.
PS: Sissy Spacek rules.
PPS: I don’t know why there is a giant gap at the beginning of this post. I could not fill it.
** All photos from ALLMOVIEPHOTO.com