Book vs. Movie: The Help

Hey guys!
It’s time for a book vs. movie post and today I chose The Help, which tells the tale of african american maids in the 60s. The novel by Kathryn Stockett is a bestseller, the adaptation was nominated for countless awards. So let’s dive in!

The Plot:
Aibileen is a maid working in Jackson, Mississippi. She and several other of her african-american friends are suffering in silence and trying to make the best of their situation in the midst of difficult times.
Skeeter could not have a life that’s more different. She’s an entitled young woman who just finished University and is rather irritated by the racism she witnesses on a daily basis.
Interested in the maids and sympathetic towards them, Skeeter decides to write a book that shares their stories. However, not everybody is happy about that decision…

Book vs. Movie:
Let me begin with a few thoughts on the novel. First of all, it is a fascinating insight into life in the South. We get to see a sight hat’s usually not represented and learn about their struggles. Initially, I had second thoughts about such a book being written by a white woman, and my concern never fully evaporated, however, Stockett manages to give a rather authentic picture that seems genuine and heartfelt. This is certainly the biggest strength of The Help. It gets under your skin and breaks your heart. Even at its weakest moments the book is intense and conveys the suffering and pain better than I would have expected.
You can already tell, turning this into a movie was a challenge. To be honest, I watched the movie a few years after it had been nominated for every award, so I had my expectations up quite high. In comparison, the film is rather pale. First of all, the important scenes that made the transition from book to movie are not nearly half as intense as they were in the novel. Furthermore, I was disappointed to see many big aspects left out, although they would have added immensely to the film. Many scenes were stretched to be funnier, I guess nobody likes a movie that is too serious?
What disappointed me most is that several characters feel a bit over the top and like a cliché, a feeling that never occurred while reading. To be honest, the only thing that saved this whole flick for me are the outstanding performances of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Despite the movie trying to sell the “white savior narrative” (even more than the novel), they make all the others pale and show that they certainly don’t need saving.

To sum it up, I have to say the highly praised film disappointed me. While the novel was intense and heart-breaking, the movie is too shallow. So just go with Katheryn Stockett’s debut!

Did you read the book? Watch the movie? Let me know in the comments what you think!

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4 thoughts on “Book vs. Movie: The Help

  1. I did this in the opposite order and enjoyed both. I think I found the story so affecting because there are strong parallels with Apartheid South Africa, which I experienced as a child.

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