The Help – Written by Kathryn Stockett
I enjoyed reading The Help. When I first realized the novel was a multiple person narrative, I was nervous. Structuring a novel through several points of view is complicated. It is easy to get lost if each character doesn’t have a distinct voice and I think it lessens the quality of writing. However, Stockett does this beautifully; Aibileen, Skeeter, and Minny each have narratives specific to their manner of speaking and thinking. The different perspectives emphasize the intertwining story lines. Although Skeeter is our main character, since she has the most amount of back story, Aibileen is the heart and soul of this novel. Her relationship with Mae Mobley combined with the grief of losing her own son reveal the internal struggle that really holds the novel together. The Help is about acceptance in every aspect of the world. For instance, Skeeter does not feel she needs acceptance from her friends and parents, and their standards. Aibileen wishes for Elizabeth to accept her daughter Mae Mobley, despite her flaws. Minny is forced to accept friendship from a white woman, Celia Foote, something she has never done before, something she thought impossible. These examples are only a few storylines that bring the theme of acceptance to the surface of the novel.
The one area of The Help that I felt was somewhat under-developed was Skeeter’s relationships with her family and their characters’ profiles in general. Perhaps Stockett did this on purpose to show that Constantine truly was the woman who raised her, which affected Skeeter’s relationships with her immediate family–particularly her mother, Charlotte. Regardless, I found that the overbearing harsh mother character was not very original and the cancer plot line did not have much of an effect on me, as a reader. Additionally, Skeeter’s romance with Stuart seems rushed and not very understandable. While reading, I couldn’t put my finger on why they were really dating in the first place or what they saw in each other. Compared to the other relationships in the novel, I felt that Stockett did not develop these as properly as she could have.
A major flaw I found in the novel was inequality. Yes, The Help is about splitting open the tight-knit community white community of Jackson, Mississippi. The black maids, who have never spoken out before about their experiences caring for white families, are the ones who drive the most essential plot of the novel. But when it comes down to it, the novel rides on Skeeter’s success over the maids; she is the one truly moving on at the end of The Help. She leaves Mississippi for New York and never turns back, but her good-bye to Aibileen and Minny is quite uninspiring. There doesn’t seem to truly be a connection between them. It’s obvious that these characters set out to accomplish different things; Skeeter wanted to do something that made her different from her peers and the maids wanted to speak the unspoken and give the white community unrest. The bottom line is there is still existing tension between the white and black characters which, in a few ways, defeats the purpose of the book. Regardless, I did think The Help was a fantastic read that you just couldn’t put down and I would recommend it to anyone.
“The Help” – Directed by Tate Taylor
The first thing that really stood out as a major accomplishment for a Mook was casting and location. Viola Davis is so all-encompassing of Aibileen it almost brings a tear to your eye. Octavia Spencer is straight up hilarious, as Minny should be. Bryce Dallas Howard is the ultimate antagonist as Hilly Holbrook, incredibly condescending and downright cruel. And, of course, Emma Stone embodies all the quirks and awkwardness of Skeeter. While in the novel Skeeter is described as incredible tall with unruly, frizzy hair and pasty-pale complexion, I firmly believe casting Emma Stone was the right choice. It happens with many Mooks: when a female main character is meant to be somewhat ugly and awkward, most likely they will be cast by someone who can pull of the dorky look and still maintain some appeal (think Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series.) That being said, Stone has a reputation of being nerdy-hot and she really is a great actress. Her scenes when she is upset over Constantine are 100% believable, and I think she had just the right amount of sass and attitude.
The setting in the movie was also insanely perfect. I am assuming since Tate Taylor and Kathryn Stockett are childhood friends, Stockett had a lot of influence on the appearance of things. I felt like the scenery was plucked from what my imagination crafted while reading the novel and placed onto the screen. It is a very satisfying feeling.
There weren’t so many issues that I found with this particular Mook, just things I didn’t quite get; for example, the whole Minny/Celia/Johnny relationship. The audience doesn’t get the severity of how Minny feels in not having Johnny find out that she is working for his wife. In the novel, it is much more prevalent that Celia wants Minny’s help to be a secret, something which Minny is desperate to overcome as she is living in fear of what will happen if Johnny ever finds out. Evidently, the scene where Johnny finds Minny walking to his house and Minny runs away scared is kind of a surprise. Perhaps I felt this way only because I had read the novel prior to seeing the film. This area of the film seemed underdeveloped. Another problem I had was the major lack of Constantine scenes. In the novel she is so, so important to Skeeter, but in the movie, mentions of Constantine seem few and far between. Something that was essential to the novel is brushed under the rug. That being said, I don’t think these things did any damage to the Mook itself or take away from plot lines/character development.
As a movie, “The Help” is truly phenomenal and deserving of all the critics’ praise and Oscar buzz. As a Mook, it only fell a little bit short. It accomplished what it needed to and the characters were truly “brought to life.” I enjoyed it just as much as the novel and it felt as close to perfect as a Mook can possibly be.
Mook Rating – ★ ★ ★ ★1/2