I went and saw The Help last night with my husband and sister…it is always interesting to see a movie after you read the book, because it gives you a chance to:
1) Look at the storyline from someone else’s perspective
2) Have visual images available to sculpt the story details in your mind
3) See how accurately (or inaccurately) Hollywood portrayed the book
4) Catch details you didn’t notice in the book
5) Remember details from the book that stand out now because they weren’t in the movie
**Spoiler Alert!** Some details from the movie and book are discussed below, so if you are planning on seeing the movie or reading the book, you may want to hold off on reading this…
For The Help, I definitely think the book was better, which is usually the case, because it offers so much more detail! It was helpful that my husband hadn’t read the book, because he kept asking questions about details that were unexplained in the movie, such as how Skeeter got her nickname, and why Stuart broke up with her, and why it was such a big deal that Constantine’s daughter came to visit her. All of these things were explained in detail in the book, so I was able to reference these details and note that they were missing from the movie. (Thanks Fluffy!)
There were also lots of details missing about each of the characters in the story in general. There was lots of character background in the book, as well as individual struggles of each character that lent to the overall message of the story. Since the book was written by going back and forth amongst the “voices” of Skeeter, Aibeleen, and Minnie, these characters and the people closest to them had the most background in the book.
Skeeter’s brother (whom we never even see in the movie), mother, father, and friends were all given fairly detailed character sketches, which helped tell Skeeter’s story, and her struggles growing up in pre-civil rights era Mississippi. In the book this helped draw the connection between her character and “the help.” In the movie, Skeeter is a voice for “the help” but is not nearly as connected to them by her past.
Aibeleen and Minnie both have such rich characters in the book. They both have so many more events happening to them throughout the book, that their true characters are full of life, and you really feel like you are getting to know them, and connecting with their struggle. In the movie, you are much more of an outsider looking in through a window at their lives as maids.
I feel like the movie was a good overview of the book, but it lacked too much character detail to really fully tell the story with enough accuracy. The spirit of the story was there, but as an audience, you are much more of an observer than a participant. In the book, you are much more of a participant, and there is so much more symbolism to pick up on based on the intrinsic nature of the details being presented.
Overall, I say read the book first to get all of the character detail in full, and then watch the movie as a backup plan. If you are only choosing one or the other, then definitely go with the book over the movie…it is a worthwhile read that keeps you hooked until the end.
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