NOTE: As the first of a few guest posts for TMP’s adaptation month, I’ve asked my mom to share her thoughts on The Help, which we saw in theaters together last year. She recently read the book for the first time. Here are her thoughts on Kathryn Stockett’s novel and its 2011 adaptation.
I just finished reading ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett. I’ve viewed the film numerous times, and it was by far one of if not the best film of 2011 in my opinion. Somehow, the book had escaped my reading list until now. The film has remained incredibly true to the spirit of the book as well as most of the major plot points, while taking the liberty to make a few changes.
A few scenes were cut short when adapting the story from novel to film. One pivotal scene that was shortened in the film was Celia’s miscarriage. It was much longer and very horrible in the book. While the book’s treatment of the miscarriage has a lot of emotional impact, I can see why they toned it down for the screen and do prefer the film’s version of this event.
The book also goes into more detail regarding Skeeter’s writing of individual stories, which I liked very much. The film gives the viewer some of the stories that Skeeter discovers from her interviews with the women, but the book gives these distinctive experiences more prevalence than the film does. This is especially true with the stories that come from women other than Aibileen and Minny.
Several scenes were also cut from the book when adapting it into a film (possibly due to time constraints). The two most prevalent examples of this are one scene where two children are playing, and another dealing with the son of one of Aibileen’s friends. The scene between the two children portrays a young girl and boy, with the girl, Mae Mobley, making the boy pretend that he is Rosa Parks. She tells him that he can only use segregated facilities. Her father confronts her about her behavior. In the second major scene that was cut, Aibileen’s friend’s son is described as being attacked for using the wrong restroom. He loses his sight as a result of the incident. Both of these scenes have a strong impact on the reader.
To make up for the loss of some of these emotional moments, the film made a pretty big personality change to one of its main characters. In the movie, Aibileen is much more directly confrontational. For instance, she asks Hilly (portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard), ‘Ain’t you tired, miss Hilly?’ in the film but not in the book. The inclusion of the line itself as well as Viola’s powerful delivery during this scene is very striking.
Both the book and the film are heartbreaking, compelling, thought provoking and brilliantly written and portrayed. If you’ve already seen the film, then absolutely curl up with the book and enjoy it in literary form! The story will come to life for you again in the technicolor of your imagination. It’s hard for me to imagine reading the book without having seen Octavia’s stellar delivery of the line, ‘Eat my s—,’ or Viola’s endearing and reassuring motto of ‘You is kind, you is smart, you is important.’ Though I absorbed the two in the opposite order, I would suggest reading the book prior to seeing the film if possible, as the film will then completely bring the story to life for you. Whether on screen, on the page or both The Help is not one to miss!