Monday, August 8, 2011

Movie review: The Help

Last week I had the great fortune of attending an early screening of a much-anticipated movie, The Help. In case you've somehow managed to miss the many articles and discussions about this book and movie, here's the scoop:

Based on one of the most talked about books in years and a #1 New York Times best-selling phenomenon,  “The Help” stars Emma Stone (“Easy A”) as Skeeter, Academy Award®–nominated Viola Davis (“Doubt”) as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny—three very different, extraordinary women in Mississippi during the 1960s,  who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project that breaks societal rules and puts them all at risk. From their improbable alliance a remarkable sisterhood emerges, instilling all of them with the courage to transcend the lines that define them, and the realization that sometimes those lines are made to be crossed—even if it means bringing everyone in town face-to-face with the changing times.
Deeply moving, filled with poignancy, humor and hope, “The Help” is a timeless and universal story about the ability to create change.
In addition to members of the media, the screening that I attended was filled to overflowing by lots and lots of book groups.  Generally when I arrive at a theater for a screening there's a short to medium length line, but for this movie the line wrapped around the first floor. There were so many people there that some people actually got turned away.  And the people at the front of the line said they had arrived three hours early! These were some serious fans of the book, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. So expectations were high when the movie began.

Honestly, it's been a very long time since I experienced such a huge range of emotions while watching a movie. The Help made me laugh so hard that tears came to my eyes, it made me cover my mouth when I gasped in horror or cringed, it broke my heart one minute and then made me smile the next moment.  From the responses of my fellow audience members, they felt the same way.  There were cheers and guffaws of laughter and tissues being passed around everywhere.

I know there's been a lot of talk about this movie for a lot of reasons, one of which is that the author is Caucasian, and she told a story largely from the point of view of African-American women.  Being Caucasian myself, I can't speak from personal experience on this point, so again I have to use the reactions of the people who were watching with me.  About 98% of the people in the theater with me were African-American, and while the movie's final credits rolled, the entire audience broke into a long round of applause.  On the way out, I heard person after person chatting about how powerful the movie was and how much they enjoyed it.

The Help is over two hours long and is very emotional, so I felt a bit physically worn out when it was done, but it was a movie that I am so glad to have seen. I did not read the book, but my friend who went with me had recently read it, and she said the movie was very faithful to the book.  This is an excellent, amazing movie that I'm sure we'll be hearing lots about at award time.  Grab your girlfriends and head to the theater. The Help opens officially on August 10, 2011.

And don't forget to enter my giveaway for a The Help prize pack! 

Disclosure: I received passes for my friend and myself to attend this movie. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions posted here are mine and mine alone.