THEY GET BY WITH "THE HELP" OF THEIR FRIENDS @ 16 December 2011 05:51 PM
I'm sure I cannot add more to what has already been said in praise of the book and the movie versions of Kathryn Stockett's The Help, except perhaps to note that once I met a group of people in a restaurant and the film came up. They brought up Minnie's "terrible awful" incident and I asked, "Haven't you wished that just once you could do that to someone, sometime?" The reaction was unanimous amid riotous laughter.
The Help takes place in 1963 -- the same as season two of Mad Men -- but this is set in the deep south, as the civil rights movement was gaining national notice, violence was on the rise> And while some thought the injustices would never end, others were either unaware of them or looked the other way.
Emma Stone, as Skeeter, discovers far more than she really thought about. It simply wasn't discussed. When she embarks what seems to be a simple story idea, it grows to a living, breathing work that attacks the social and political abyss to a more personal, more identifiable level. Not only are the two ladies who are her narrativer touchstones (played to Oscar perfection by Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis) real "iron chefs" in courage, endurance and moral integrity, they're people with faults, wounds and talent. And a sense of humor -- perhaps the best survival tool of all.
While the institutionalization of bigotry depicted in The Help is a experience too heinous to be understood fully except by those who suffered through it, most of us at some time has been wronged by a boss, a co-worker, teacher, parent or any person who held sway over our fate (or made us feel that they held sway). You can't help root for Abileen and Minnie, as well as cheer when the most loathsome character (played to the glorious hilt by Bryce Dallas Howard) is taken down more than a few notches.
To me, The Help is also a story about the power of the written word. Yes, it's a movie, and the visuals are superb, but Skeeter's book is the catalyst that finally sets so much in motion. While we now live in an age of high tech and endless visuals, words can still change history, especially when those words bring issues to the personal attention of those who might be otherwise unaware of them.
There is no audio commentary on the discs, which is unfortunate, but the behind the scenes featurette is among the best of its kind. The Help is the work of mutual friends who somehow were allowed to create this great work together despite the obstacles of the publishing and film businesses. I have never heard of a similar story quite like it.
The Help -- and the story behind The Help -- are never to be forgotten.
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