The buzz surrounding the book is difficult to ignore, as The Help has already been deemed a "classic" by many. And, to my surprise, I actually enjoyed the book as much as everybody else said I would. [I have a tendency to be more critical when the "masses" say I should like something.] It was a beautifully written, yet simplistic view into the ugly Southern discrimination of the 1960s. And it was personal. When I was reading it, I could feel honesty and fear reaching across the pages.
When I read Kathryn Stockett's biography at the end of the book, I wasn't the least bit surprised to learn that she was raised the same way the women in the book were. It was her honest sentiment that captivated my attention and gained my respect.
My grade: A
I, then, like everybody else went to see the movie a few days after reading the book. And that's a while different story...
Is it commercialy successful? Yes. The Help has topped the box office for two weeks straight. But where the book succeeds the movie falls short. There is no subtlety in the film. Everything is either explained in great, outlandish detail or simply ignored. Relationships between individuals are forced and unnatural. I kept waiting for the meat of the story, but it never came. Instead, I felt like I was eating a McDonalds hamburger insted of the steak I was expecting.
Did I enjoy it? Sure. I laughed and cried at times. But I just wasn't compltely satisfied.
I love how The Hollywood Reporter explains my let down feelings:
There are small moments in the film though that make you long for a movie that is not so deep-dish serious and self-conscious, a contemporary movie that could take advantage of the viewpoint of a half century to look at the past [...] But, no, the film falls too much in love with its vintage cars, period hairdos, quaint customs and ubiquitous cigarettes. It lingers a tad too long on the Colored Only signs and Confederate flags. It makes its points with set design and camera movements rather than fully explore the never-ending puzzlement of human malice and ignorance.
I can't help but wonder if the producers sacrificed artistic success for box office success, how it could have been different, more significant. But that's what you get when Disney takes over and sets out to make an end-of-summer, family-friendly, non-action film. Chances are when you see it, you'll like it. But it's not going to make an impact on the industry. It's not going to change anything. Except the size of Emma Stone's resume.
My grade: B-
DVD worthy? Not for my collection.
Awards worthy? Viola Davis may get a nod, but that's a long way away.