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Or, in which I ramble a little about the movie and a lot about conversations with my family.
I took my mother and grandmother to see The Help this past Sunday. I read the book in early 2010 and loved it (my review). I bought it for my grandmother for Mother’s Day. She read it over the summer and loved it as well. After she finished, she said something like, “Jenny, don’t you ever buy me a book like that in the summertime again. I didn’t want to do anything but read, and you know I have too much work to do for that!” There is no higher praise from a woman who has worked hard all her life! My mom fell a little behind. I called her on Friday evening to invite her out.
“I haven’t read it yet. I don’t want to spoil the book.”
“Mama, the book is not that big. Just finish it before Sunday.”
“Jenny, it is big. I can’t finish it by then.”
“Oh, it can’t have more than, what, 300 pages? You can finish that easy. You’ve already started.”
“Honey, this thing has 522 pages. I am on page 240. I cannot finish it by Sunday.”
“Oh. Well. It didn’t feel that long. Still. If you just set your mind to it, you can finish it and go with us.”
“I don’t know. I’ll try.”
She stayed up until 2 am Friday night/Saturday morning and read the last 40 pages on Saturday evening. How’s that for dedication?!?!
We got there and the theater was packed. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it that crowded, even for Harry Potter! And this was at a Sunday matinee! Of course, it was mostly women and a few reluctant husbands.
We all just loved it. Loved. It.
It’s been so long since I read the book that I just remember the big story. It included everything I remembered and a lot I didn’t. My mom, having finished it so recently, was more aware of what had been changed, but she was thrilled with how they adapted it. She only wished that they had gotten more into Celia’s story. We all understand that time constraints mean cuts have to be made, but it would have been good to see more of what was going on with her.
The casting was absolutely perfect. Minny (Octavia Spencer) stole the show. She was our group’s favorite character in the book and she was fantastic on the screen. She looked exactly how we pictured her and Spencer caught Minny’s take-no-prisoners attitude just perfectly. Even knowing what she was going to say, we still burst into shocked laughter when she just went ahead and said it.
The others were great too. Aibileen (Viola Davis) had that tired, end-of-her-rope wisdom. Skeeter (Emma Stone) was insecure and different and learning to stand by her convictions. Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly had that slimy disdain for anyone different down so well that I wanted to reach through the screen and smack her around. Celia (Jessica Chastain) was great too, although we all did wish she’d had a bigger role.
I am not a crier, but I had to swipe at some tears a couple of times. I was expecting it in one scene because I welled up in the book. The other one caught me completely off-guard. “The help” were just beautiful in their bravery and courage and their desire for better lives for their children. I’m getting goose bumps thinking about the scene.
It was funny too and we could hear the men laughing as well. I know this is probably appealing to women more than men, but the guys were enjoying themselves too.
On a side note, I got tickled at the two “Yankees” sitting beside me who had to translate for each other a couple of times. I guess it’s like one of my patients told me last week, “You speak in Southern and I hear in Northern.” It was only once or twice, so please don’t let me scare you off with that. I just thought it was funny.
In the car on the way home, we were reliving our favorite moments, they way you always do after a movie, and my grandmother told us what she could remember personally from the Civil Rights era. We aren’t a very diverse area, so I was honestly surprised that she had anything to share. I guess I just never thought about any of this kind of thing going on here.
She told us that she was working in a factory and the owners decided to integrate it. “Oh, how mad some of those women got. They sounded just like that Hilly. ‘We don’t know what kind of diseases they got. I ain’t working with such as that.’ Some of them quit but most of us stayed and of course we all got along just fine. I remember a black janitor who was so nice to me when I was pregnant with your aunt Donna. Oh, I was sick with her. I was like that Celia, I went running for the bathroom, I just didn’t make it. I was sick all over the floor. I just sat down and cried. It had been such a hard day. But that janitor came over and cleaned up after me and said, ‘Don’t you cry. You couldn’t help it. Don’t you cry. You did the best you could. You’ll be all right.’ I remember him even now.”
Then she told us about integrating the hospital. “We used the same hospital, but the black women delivered their babies on a separate floor. We were all on the same floor by the time I had my last baby. Oh, I was so sick. Those nurses didn’t help me too much, but the black lady who was sharing my room was just as sweet as she could be. She’d just had her baby too, but she didn’t have as hard a time as I did. She just cleaned up after me and looked after me and helped me get through it. She was the sweetest thing. One of the nurses taking care of us just fussed about having to rub that lady’s back! But you know what? She did it. And it did her soul some good.”
Then she surprised me by talking about the little segregated school that our tiny community had. You could have knocked me over with a feather! “Yes, honey, way back when, a man up on that mountain married one of his slaves. Their children never did get to go to the community school. They had their own little school up that road there, even that long afterward.” She didn’t talk about that school being integrated, but I think my mom was surprised to find out that her fifth grade teacher had taught in the little segregated school.
Anyway, now that I’ve rambled on about that, let me make my point. A book or a movie that can get people talking and discussing important issues like this is worth reading. And when it’s entertaining and thought-provoking? It’s a winner all the way around. Go see it.
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.