Friday, February 24, 2012

film thoughts: The Help

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
Source: library

Want to see it for yourself? Buy The Help from Amazon on dvd, Blu-Ray or a digital copy.

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14 comments:

  1. I haven't read the book or seen the movie, but I have heard the criticism of both of late, and I think it would be interesting to get a taste of both and see what I think. I usually feel differently than most about very popular books and movies, so it should be interesting.

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    1. Zibilee-- I often disagree on popular books too. I do think the conversation that has happened surrounding both is good, but I just wasn't wowed by the story in either format.

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  2. I read the book and saw the movie afterward. I enjoyed both. I did want to know more at the end, but historically speaking, we know what happens. I think it's deserving of its Oscar nod.

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    1. I'm not sure it's fair to say we do not what happened. Much of the criticism of the film is how much it sugarcoats that time. I don't think The Help lives in realistic historical fiction; it exists in a weirdly optimistic history that lacks much of the pain of its time. Clearly, I'm in the minority on its Oscar nominations too!

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  3. Oh I am sorry you didn't like the film either! Jessica Chastain was my fav in the movie too!

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    1. Wasn't she fantastic? I can't wait to see her in more films now!

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  4. I still haven't read the book and of course haven't seen the movie. I'm so out of the loop...

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    1. Kathleen--that's not always a bad thing. Every time I'm disappointed by something popular I wish I had seen something I wanted to see more instead!

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  5. I think the general public really just wants something entertaining, and the whole thing between Minny and that one girl with the pie and everything is fun and makes everyone cheer so that's probably one of the reasons it's so loved. I loved Chastain in this movie too! And I did think it was a tad long!

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    1. Jenny--I hate hate hate the pie scene. I am just not a fan of gross out humor or drama it seems. I'm glad to hear Chastain has more fans!

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  6. I loved the book and the movie. As a southern child in the 60's I do remember the feelings of unrest, hurt, and being on the "edge" of something about to happen. I think this book captured all of that. I guess you would have had to live it to understand perfectly. I do appreciate all opinions though.

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    1. Lag, I appreciate your opinion too. I think great historical fiction, be it film, novel or play, does manage to capture all of the feelings of the time. For many, this story did those things, but for me, it wasn't nearly as affecting as other tales of racism.

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  7. I haven't read the book or seen the movie... I read the first few pages of the novel and it didn't really grab me, so I put it down.

    A lot of bloggers/reviewers whose reading tastes are similar to mine didn't enjoy the book, so that definitely influenced my decision. I'll probably end up seeing the movie eventually, though.

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    1. Rayna--I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the film, particularly without having read the book!

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!