Book & Movie Review: The Help

We all love our books, and there are times we wish they could come to life on the big screen. Sometimes our wish comes true and those beloved stories soon hit theaters. Yet as excited as we are for the movie version to come to be they are not always good experiences. Perhaps a character is portrayed incorrectly, important scenes are left out or changed completely, or that wonderful story has been reduced to something with no plot but amazing CG effects. And then there are times when the movie is absolutely stunning and you are left with such an amazing feeling after watching it.

How I First Encountered The Help

I first watched The Help when it came to DVD in late 2011/early 2012. I had been seeing the book and movie advertised everywhere and there was a lot of praise for both, and yet I was hesitant to read the book feeling that it would be likely not hold up to the hype. So I decided to go with the safest thing to do at that time and rent the movie. I felt in love with this movie and was then kicking myself because if the movie was this good the book had to be even better and now I had ruined the story. So I bought the book and waited, waited until the details faded to only a vague recollection of what had happened and then finally got around to reading it this month. Then after reading the book I rented the movie once more to reacquaint myself with that version and give it a proper comparison to the book.

The Book

I can’t say that I was instantly pulled into this book, even remembering what little I did from previously watching the movie, I found the start to be somewhat slow. But then again it was setting things up, introducing one of the main characters and laying down a lot of foundation that would prove to be important later on in the book. It also took me a little bit, perhaps a chapter or so, to get used to the writing style of the book. Initially it threw me off, but as I began to read more it made perfect sense for things to be written as they were and then I got to the point where I couldn’t imagine the writing style being any different from what it was.

I enjoyed how the book was divided up into chapters lead by each of the three main characters, Skeeter, Minny and Aibileen. Being broken up like this allowed the reader to get a  more focused look at each of these women’s lives and roles within the story but still keeping the greater part of the book tied together and flowing well. But of course the story wasn’t just about these women, a lot of it focused on the lives of the people around them and in the case of Minny, Aibileen and the other maids, it was about how they were treated by those families whom they worked for. I developed a quick dislike for Hilly and all her little perfect housewife cronies. They definitely were the type of characters that I love to hate. Yet without these nasty characters the story really wouldn’t have a lot of what makes it such an amazing tale.

I found that this story progressed at a nice solid pace and there wasn’t a moment when I wanted to set the book down. There was always something of interest to read, whether it was an event that occurred in the past, a current going-on or the collection of the stories and them being put together. With each page I was more drawn into the story and the lives of the three main characters.

Things truly picked up though when the stories of the maids were being collected. Everything up to that point had been interesting and kept me reading but I really loved when it reached this part and they finally agreed to share their stories with Skeeter. From that point on up until the very end I ignored everything else around me to reach the end of the book and experience for the first time how things turn out among the pages. I don’t think the ending of this book could have been any better. Everything was tied up nicely, there were no loose ends anywhere and you feel that though there is plenty more we could see and learn about from these characters that the end was as it should be and there is no need for a sequel – though admittedly if there every was a sequel I would definitely read it.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it yet. It is truly a great piece of literature and I feel pretty much anyone will enjoy this.

The Movie

The first time I watched this movie, about two years ago, I feel in love with it. I didn’t know much about it going into the movie, just that it was about colored maids in the south back when their rights were extremely limited and life wasn’t all that great for them. But it was so much more than that and I was actually thoroughly surprised at how well it was all put together and put out there for the audiences to see.

I think the casting on the movie was fantastic. Really I can’t imagine picking different actors for any of the roles. Minny’s actress, Octavia Spencer, was great as the attitude filled maid. Emma Stone as Skeeter was a perfect match for what she was like in the book. Viola Davis as was great for playing the role of Aibileen. I could go on listing them all and saying what I liked about them playing the roles but that would get a little crazy.

The feel of the movie, not just the struggles of the maids but also showing the time period that it was set it, really transports the viewer back and makes them feel as though they are back in the 1960’s. But it also transports you into Mississippi, the setting for the book. Though I don’t like comparing movies to each other, I have to say this one had a nice feel to it that reminds me a lot of Fried Green Tomatoes, and I think that is another reason why I enjoyed it so much.

Whether you have read the book or not, I feel that the movie is something everyone should watch.

How They Compare To Each Other

Even though I hadn’t read the book when I had first watched the movie I could just tell that it was pretty spot on to what I would find within the pages of the book. And then after reading the book I was pleasantly surprised to see how true to the story they kept things. Yes, some things had been changed and some left out, but the essence of the story was there and everything that made it such an appealing read was transferred onto the big screen. After reading the book I watched the movie for a second time and felt that the magic of the story was still there. I could see what parts had been changed or left out from the original story but I don’t feel that leaving those things out was a bad thing.

As far as movie adaptations go I think The Help is among the best I have ever seen. For once a story was not butchered and changed so much that it no longer resembled the original product. This is one of those movies where if you watch it and never read the book (which would be a shame honestly) then the viewer is still getting enough of the story to be able to talk about it with people who have read the book.

In the end, I would highly suggest both reading the book and watching the movie. While they can be done in any order I think reading the book first would be the best thing.

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