I was skeptical about “The Help.” I turned up my nose at reading or viewing a work about black maids in the South in a fictional tale written by a white author. That was not my idea of entertainment. No, ma’am.
In fact, as I took my seat to screen the movie at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Philadelphia, I already had decided I would not like it. What could this white author and white director show me about two black maids who team up with an aspiring writer who is decades ahead of her time? Why should I care about these fictional characters who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project that shatters racial rules and and threatens their livelihood and relationships? Plenty and a heck of a lot, it turns out.
“The Help” is set in the turbulent 1960s and stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny.
I was pleasantly surprised by the texture of the characters and how the women, both black and white, learned how to trust each other. The villain doesn’t seem to have one redeeming quality, and each of the other characters has her own personal struggle to overcome as well.
While it’s a fictional work, it is centered on the civil rights movement, particularly the death of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, who was killed in 1963 at his Jackson, Mississippi, home. As a result, the movie took me on a rough ride of emotions, at times angering me, bringing tears to my eyes and making my cheeks hurt from laughing.
I enjoyed “The Help” and suggest anyone who is willing to view race from a different corner of her mind to go see it. Remember, this is a work of fiction framed around a historical event. The author of the book told a room full of journalists that she was quite aware that she was making up the story. Don’t go see it alone. Take some girlfriends or someone else with you so that you can chat about it after the credits roll. Oh, and this is not a movie for young children. A few scenes are punctuated with spirited, literal and figurative expletives.
“The Help” changed my mind from doubt to acceptance. I may even purchase the book and read all the scenes that are sitting on the cutting room floor. The movie opens Wednesday, Aug. 10. Enjoy!