It's been a long time since I was excited about a movie in the way I was excited about seeing The Help. Since the moment I got on board with the fantastic novel written by Kathryn Stockett, I've been threatening to storm the gates of Hollywood if they messed this one up. (Like most books to movies.) Good news--they didn't. If you don't believe me, read this. Or this.)
I saw the movie twice on opening weekend, but decided that I would wait a while to write my review (the last of my great summer movies) to give the rest of the viewing public some time to catch up. The Help was everything I hoped it would be, and a few things beyond. Tate Taylor's screenplay and direction was pitch perfect, and that's saying something for his first time with a major motion picture. I love that he and Stockett were childhood friends, and it shows in the careful handling of her work of art.
Taking the three-part narrative of the book down to a single narrative told by Aibileen was a necessary move to make the film work. The strong and steady Aibileen gave a balance between the seriousness of message and the lighter, more humorous moments. Of course, you can't please everyone, and there are plenty of people out there who say that this movie is a disgrace to the very African-American women I feel it honors. (You can read more about that controversy here and all over the rest of the internet.) But, not even the controversy can dampen the performance of the unmatched Viola Davis. If she is refused an Academy Award nomination for her work, then there simply is no justice.
Not that the rest of the cast are a bunch of slouches. This was the summer of Emma Stone, who continues to prove that she will be the Julia Roberts of her generation, comedic and heartbreaking in one swoop. Octavia Spencer played Minny Jackson exactly as I had imagined her while reading the book, which is a rare feat in and of itself. The real breakthrough star of the show was Jessica Chastain, who I had heard about but never really seen until her brilliant turn as Celia Foote. Celia was funnier and more sympathetic in the movie than the book, and I think it was because of the grace Chastain used to portray her.
It was an interesting experience to watch it twice in one weekend, once with Amber and the next afternoon with my grandma, Mom, and Lulu. The audiences reacted to things differently, but overall, seemed to really love it. (And both times I watched it in nearly packed houses!) There's a reason that this movie has lead the box office for three weeks in a row, and that's precisely why I think you should see it if you haven't already!