The Help: Film does not live up to the novel

  By Everett Mulroe/ Eagle Post staff

Novelist Kathryn Stockett captivates readers as she tells the story of a group of   women from another time in her best-selling novel The Help.  Director Tate Taylor falls short in his attempt to do the same in his 2011 movie version.

The Help is a historical novel that follows a group of women through their lives in 1962 Mississippi. The story features the struggles these women face both among each other and against the politics and public attitude of the time. The story explores the relationships of women of different financial status, backgrounds, and race in an important setting in America’s history.

Where the novel is educational and intriguing, the movie is accessible. The novel is not a difficult read, but a bit of a commitment with more than 400 pages. Stockett uses these pages to develop the plot, characters, and setting of the story making it touching, inspirational, and interesting. While the movie reaches a much greater audience, it loses some of that magic.

      Both Stockett and Taylor recognized the importance of getting the facts right. Although this is a fictional story, the people who lived these lives are very much real, and it is imperative that the film does not insult those people. It is also important because this research and facts will reach both readers and viewers giving them a look at what this specific time in history was like in this place.

The movie succeeds in portraying the societal oppression of women and African Americans at the time, but it fails to instill the same effect in its audience as the book does. Some major plot variations take away from the constant inequality shown in the book.

One of the maids, Yule Mae, is in need of money to send her sons to college showing her struggle to help her family become educated. In the book Yule Mae is accused of stealing from her employer, this accusation follows many other false accusations and seems to be untrue and unwarranted; however, in the movie, viewers are given reasonable doubt that Yule Mae might have taken an item from the house that was not hers. This slight variation paints a different picture of a character that could be seen as unfavorable by viewers.

The book also develops a slight relationship between “Skeeter” and Stuart Whitworth, the son of a senator. Skeeter has always been driven by her work and education, so she missed out on dating in high school because she was not the typical cheerleader type. The book reveals Skeeter’s mother and friends’ disapproval of Skeeter living alone without a husband portraying the oppression of women at the time.

The book gives Skeeter a love interest to make the story more interesting while proving a point about history; however the role of the relationship in the movie is unnecessary and the production might as well have cut cost by writing out the character all-together. Stuart (Chris Lowell) makes a few brief appearances before declaring that he is dumping Skeeter for her part in creating the book.

The maids’ characters were actually in many cases were stronger in the movie. The actresses gave the roles real heart and personality. Minny, for example, comes across as witty and funny instead of bitter and dull.

The movie is a good film that took on the unfortunate task of living up to a book that can never been captured in a few hours. Audiences will enjoy the movie that entertains while making them think, but readers will still prefer the book.


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February 2012
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