The backstory: Although I wasn't a huge fan of The Help as a novel (my review), I was eager to see the film, which is nominated for numerous Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
My thoughts: While I liked the film a little more than the novel, I'm still not a big fan of this story. I think it's difficult to comment on a film's pacing when you've read the novel (and found it slow), but I think pacing is still an issue in the film, even though it's a lesser one. Similarly, I found the book to be too long, and I also felt the film was too long. I found the plot of the novel telegraphed from the beginning, and the problem was still present in the film. I will say, however, the acting was quite good, and I did find myself being swept away by the performances, while Stockett's use of language never blew me away.
Much of the press, particularly during this awards season, has been on Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Both gave fine performances, but Jessica Chastain's performance was the only one worthy of an Oscar. She had the most interesting character, and she gave the most interesting performance. In the novel, I found many of the character's rather one-dimensional, and that problem lingered in the film and dampened the performances of Davis and Spencer. Chastain managed to make her character fully three-dimensional, and she blew me away.
Ultimately, what bothered me most about the film was the ending. For me, the really interesting story is what happens after The Help is published. How does the community react? How do daily lives change? Do things change? The crux of the film is the maids telling their story, but a the story isn't enough for me. I want to know about the impact of the story. There are snippets of it, but I wish the film began when it ended. Toure posited earlier this month that the ending is preposterous and the men of Jackson "would have killed several of these maids." Perhaps my biggest problem with the story, in book and film, was how false it rings for me. There's a place for idealism and change, but grounding historical fiction in actual history is important too.
The verdict: Needless to say, I think the film is undeserving of its Best Picture nomination, but I did appreciate the large cast and the acting performances. Jessica Chastain's performance alone makes the film worth watching, and I will be rooting for her to win on Sunday night.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 146 minutes
Release date: It's on dvd now
Want to see it for yourself? Buy The Help from Amazon on dvd, Blu-Ray or a digital copy.
As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!