Tate Taylor’s film adaptation of Katherine Stockett’s novel, The Help

Tate Taylor's The Help Movie
The Help UK Release 26/10/2011

Yesterday, West India Quay’s Cineworld had a special screening of Tate Taylor’s film adaptation of Katherine Stockett’s novel, The Help. Queues backed out of the door and spilled onto the, now freezing, London streets. Thankfully I had already seen The Help and was, in fact, queuing to see Drive. However, considering I enjoyed The Help so much, I thought I should dedicate some time to write about it.

Set in 1960’s Mississippi, Emma Stone, who plays aspiring journalist Skeeter, has returned from University, where she studied a degree in Journalism. She’s inspired to write a piece that explores the relationships between white families and their black maids from the perspective of the maids, for the Jackson Journal. Skeeter, decides she wants to interview one of her friend’s maids, Abileen, played by Viola Davis.  A number of events occur, mainly stimulated by the callous behaviour of Hilly, played by    Bryce Dallas Howard, towards her maid Minny, Octavia Spencer,  that causes a cautious and dubious Abileen to speak out. It’s not long before Minny follows in Abileen footsteps.

The film takes an emotive angle, as opposed to a racial one, and reveals the relationships and love that develops between the maids and the children they care for. It’s ironic that these women and mothers trust their maids to feed their families and nurture their children, but refuse to share a bathroom with them. We are shown the struggle, the trials and tribulations the maids experience and endure in order to have the means to support their own families.

Abileen and Minny meet with Skeeter discreetly and divulge their stories working as maids. Soon enough, a troop of  local maids from Jackson Mississippi , get wind of this opportunity, which ultimately offers a chance for them to break free from their oppression, to vocalise their thoughts and express their humanity.

Skeeter’s desire to speak with the maids is of course threatening and dangerous, but the maids soon realise that this column offers hope and the possibility of change. These courageous women come together to risk their social status, their livelihood and the well being of their families to be heard and consequently to make a difference. 

The film deals with some sad and serious issues, but miraculously, unlike many other films that even remotely face racial issues, The Help doesn’t feel heavy nor weigh you down. In fact, never have I laughed so much during a film with racial concerns. It’s inspiring and uplifting.

Minny Jackson: Fried chicken just tend to make you feel better about life…

Minny: Eat my shit.
Hilly: Excuse me!
Minny: I said eat… my… shit.
Hilly: Have you lost your mind?
Minny: No, ma’am but you is about to. ‘Cause you just did.

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