Monday, August 15, 2011

Where's My Bookmark: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I went to see The Help on Friday and I thought it was one of the best I've seen this year. It had some truly funny moments along with some horrifying and heart wrenching moments as well. On leaving the theater, the first thought I had was that I wanted more. I wasn't ready to leave the characters yet!

So I bought the book. Can you say, book junkie? Consider this a Where's My Bookmark combined with a To See or Not to See.

The Help was Kathryn Stockett's debut when it was released in 2009. It was a big hit and I think the movie will be just as big (from the looks of it, it was #2 at the box office this weekend). So far, for this reader, it has proved to be a pretty great adaptation. I know there's a lot of controversy over various aspects of both the movie and the book -- frankly, I'm not worried about that, that's not what I'm writing about. There are plenty of other people who have covered those matters and if you want, you can find them. I enjoyed it. Plain and simple. I'd put it on the level of Fannie Flagg's Fried Green Tomatoes without the current-day storyline.

Here's the synopsis, in a broad and somewhat vague nutshell: It starts in 1962, in Jackson, Mississippi. Emma Stone plays Skeeter Phelan, a college graduate with writing aspirations. There are a few different motivations for Skeeter's actions, but on the advice of a publisher, Skeeter decides to write about life in Jackson, from the Help's perspective. Aibilene (played by Viola Davis) works for one of Skeeter's friends and fellow Junior Leaguers and is the first maid Skeeter approaches. In the book, the chapters alternate narrators, so the story is told from the perspectives of Aibilene, Skeeter, and Minny (Aibilene's friend and fellow maid, played by Octavia Spencer). Bryce Dallas Howard (who I almost did not recognize from past movies) plays Hilly Holbrook, the mean girl of the Junior League and the leader of a number of bigoted and two-faced actions, some of which also prompt Skeeter's project.

I made it through about half of the book in my first sitting. Having seen the movie first, I really think director and writer Tate Taylor has done a fantastic job. Part of this could be thanks to the fact that he's a friend of Kathryn Stockett's -- I can't imagine being able to face your bestselling author friend if you didn't do a fair adaptation of their work.

I'd definitely recommend both seeing and reading this one. So far, nothing from the movie has taken away from the reading experience. The book is broader and more insightful in terms of the content, but the movie hits all the major points and it's great to see such an amazing cast in these roles. Pluses for both mediums.

I've read that Stockett has an idea for her next book in the works. I'm not sure when that might be hitting shelves, but I have to say that I'll be looking forward to it.


Vickie said...

I have been going back and forth on both the book and the movie. I do plan on seeing the movie either at the show or waiting for DVD. Not sure why I've held out on the book other than, up to now, I'm not always in agreement with who have already read it and highly recommended it. The people whose recommendations I've read don't like the books I read and I don't like the books they read.

Now I find myself in a quandry....I trust you and you and I read a lot of the same books....and you like the book and the movie....
= )

Becky LeJeune said...

To be honest, Vickie, I didn't think I wanted to read the book at all until I saw the movie. Admittedly, I wanted to see the movie all along -- it happens that way sometimes -- the cast is great and the trailers looked good. I liked them both so much, I'm glad I gave it a chance.