By ANDREA FORCUM
Set against the racially volatile backdrop of the 1960s American south, “The Help” will be bringing vibrant characters and an engaging story to Cheap Seats this week.
The film chronicles the journey of a young recent college graduate, Skeeter (Emma Stone), as she discovers the stories of maids that she had been surrounded with all of her life and never bothered to notice. As she and the maids that she corresponded with compile their stories, we witness the changing of minds and hearts.
The maids are arguably the most dimensional characters in the film. Aibeleen (Viola Davis) is a soft-hearted woman who, after Skeeter’s prompting, agreed to participate in the book.
Minny (Octavia Spencer), the sharp-tongued maid, says all of the things that every viewer wants to say, and provides both laughter and a little retribution.
One of the shining lights of the film is the way Emma Stone brought the lead character, Skeeter, to life. Her quirky mannerisms and seemingly relentless drive to bring a voice to the women around her made the difficult situation seem less perilous.
For those lucky enough to have seen the movie prior to reading the book, the film may seem comprehensive, or even daring. However, for those more reading-inclined viewers, “The Help” suffers from the same thing nearly all book-inspired films suffer from – it cuts out scenes that are of paramount importance to character development and the message.
The film did not truly do justice to the book or to the story of these women. Many of the more difficult parts of the book were excluded or were (ahem) white washed. For example, Skeeter’s mother in the book was decidedly racist and a despicable person. In the film, she is shown as a sensitive woman who had simply been too cowardly to act.
By removing some of the venom from the story, the filmmakers removed some of its message and certainly its effect. The only characters that had been watered down for general consumption were the white racist characters. It was as if they wanted to bring up the topic, but not really deliver it authentically.
In our age of enlightened thinking it’d be nice to think we could represent a story like this accurately, or at least do our best to stay true to the message.
Although “The Help” is filled with engaging characters, its failure to deliver the pungent realities of their stories is disappointing.
image courtesy of insidereel.com