by Christine Fugate & Carrie Williams
My writer friend, Carrie, and I attended the press preview for film, The Help, this week. We'd both read Kathryn Stockett's book (which the movie was based on) and loved it, so we had high expectations for the movie - and for our night out together, sans kids! For anyone not currently in a book club (because otherwise you've read the book), The Help is the story of a young woman, Skeeter (Emma Stone), who is coming of age in Jackson, Mississippi at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Coming back home after college with a journalism degree and liberal viewpoint and inserting herself back into the world of racism, conservatism, bridge games and Junior League meetings is not as easy as she'd hoped. Observing the illicit and not-so-illicit racism among her friends, family and community - in contrast to the warm and nurturing relationships she's had with her African-American caregivers - spurs Skeeter to write an anonymous account (working clandestinely with maids and nannies) of the African-American domestic experience in Jackson. And, from there, the drama unfolds.
I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, attended Tulane University in New Orleans and have driven through Mississippi countless times. Carrie grew up in Newport Beach and has never been to the South, unless you count Atlanta...which we're not sure qualifies.
We sat down with our leftover Raisinets to review the film.
Carrie: Did you like the movie or the book better?
Christine: First of all, I loved the movie - thought it was great. Bryce Dallas Howard was fabulous as Hilly and she looked gorgeous. I also liked Emma Stone as Skeeter. The casting was brilliant. When you make a movie, you only have 90 minutes to tell a story. I think they pulled the best parts out of the book. The only things I really missed that weren't in the movie were Skeeter typing at night and when she meets Stuart's parents. What about you?
Carrie: I loved the book and loved the movie. I thought Viola Davis was incredible as Aibileen and agree with you on Bryce and Emma. It made the South look so beautiful that I want to visit.
Christine: Well, I never saw Mississippi look that beautiful before. I never knew they had such lovely, tree-lined, wide streets. It's not the Mississippi I know, but I haven't been through Jackson. The film wasn't filmed in Jackson, though, it was filmed in Greenwood, Mississippi.
Carrie: After the film, another audience member asked you if you felt the film glossed over the Civil Rights issues. What do you think?
Christine: It was interesting that we didn't see the shooting of Medgar Evers, and we never saw Leroy's face (Minny's abusive husband).
Carrie: I agree. I think they may have done that to focus more on the female relationships that were at the heart of the story, but I'm not sure. The good thing about them treading lightly on some of the depictions of the Civil Rights clashes is that I can (and will) take my girls (ages 10 and 12) to go and see it. I want them to get the important messages the film has to communicate.
Christine: That's a good point. I would guess that is why the producers did that - to reach a broader audience. Speaking of which, I laughed more than I thought I would, but it is not a comedy. It's still very much a drama. What was your favorite part of the film - was it something that made you laugh or made you cry? I laughed and cried at parts.
Carrie: I have to say that I was so enthralled by watching Bryce Dallas Howard play Hilly. She is so exquisite looking and an amazing actress with great comedic timing and an ability to also play pure drama. I loved all the scenes with her in them.
Christine: I agree. I think she made the role more complex with more depth than was even in the book. Her ignorance was so part of who she was, that it was - in a way - hard to hate her. Even though what she stood for was awful. The way she walked off in a huff in her cigarette pants made me laugh so hard.
Carrie: Another of my favorite parts of the film was the relationship between Minny (Octavia Spencer) and Celia (Jessica Chastain) - it was drawn even more richly and played even better than in the book.
Christine: I loved Jessica Chastain as Celia and I think we're going to be seeing a lot more of her.
Carrie: By the way, I read that article you sent me from The Washington Post about how Tate Taylor, who adapted the book and directed the film - has been BFF's with The Help author Kathryn Stockett since they were five years old. I love that.
Christine: Yes! I found it really inspiring for other writers to know that Kathryn's book was turned down so many times and that Tate took it on when no one else would. That says something about faith, hope, tenacity and friendship.
Carrie: What was your main takeaway from the movie?
Christine: This film's not bubblegum. It's stayed with me for days. As I learned from the book and saw in the movie, it takes a lot of courage to be a writer and to stand up for the right things. That is a lesson I want to keep learning, and one that I want to teach my kids.
Carrie: I couldn't have said it better. I encourage everyone to go and see The Help.
Christine: I agree. I think it's appropriate for kids in fourth grade and up. Okay, BFF. Time for you to go write a book that I can make into a movie!
"The Help" opens August 10th. For more information, visit www.thehelpmovie.com. Share your own stories of empowerment at www.takepart.com/TheHelp.