A poignant look into a shameful past for many, much has been deservedly written about this week’s continually number one box office hit, The Help.
Based on the book by author Kathryn Stockett, (yes, please read the book first), you won’t be disappointed with this movie adaptation. The Help is a celebration of hope and friendship that can transcend cruelty, ignorance and tragic traditions delivered by a talent-packed cast.
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important,” is the mantra of maid Aibilene Clark, played by brilliantly by Viola Davis. Mothering well over a dozen little white children, it was a turning point in her life as a caregiver when she realizes she can make a lasting impact on her charges. She repeats this often to the neglected child of Junior Leaguer Elizabeth Leefolt. And, I don’t think there is a person around who didn’t yearn for that kind of support from someone in her formative years.
A rollercoaster ride of emotion, The Help has captured another dimension to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s helping define that period of time for new generations through the heartache, compassion and lack of compassion of its lead female characters.
One of the most shocking performances is by Cicely Tyson as the lead protagonist “Skeeter’s” childhood maid, Constantine. Shocking because the beautiful Tyson has not been on the big screen in a mass distributed movie in quite some time and it was wonderful to see her again. I had to revisit this passage in the book to fully appreciate that movie scene.
“Constantine sat down next to me, at the kitchen table, I heard the cracking of her swollen joints. She pressed her thumb hard in the palm of my hand, something we both knew meant ‘Listen to me.’ “Every morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision.” Constantine was so close, I could see the blackness of her gums.
“You gone have to ask yourself, am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?” She kept her thumb pressed hard in my hand. I nodded that I understood. I was just smart enough to realize she meant white people. And even though I still felt miserable, and knew that I was, most likely, ugly, it was the first time she ever talked to me like I was something besides my mother’s white child. All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.”
Everyday you have to make a decision on what you are going to believe about yourself. I say, make your own hope and believe in yourself little girls out there who don’t have these strong women in your lives to lift you up. No one wants for those days when African-American women were subjugated, mistreated and ill-paid. What we do hope, for all those little girls in the world regardless of their skin color, is summed up by one of my favorite sayings. Excellent Women: May We Know Them. May We Be Them. May We Raise Them.
Now for a little trivia you’ll want to look for in the movie. Author Kathryn Stockett’s daughter plays young Skeeter, director Tate Taylor is in the restaurant scene with the New York editor, Mary Steenburgen, and Stockett herself is in the Junior League scene.
And, there is always a wonderful Nashville connection to anything significant in this world! The Help is no exception with the beautiful and talented Amye Gousset, sister of the equally talented/beautiful Franklin-ite Kandace Williams, serving as stand-in for Bryce Dallas Howard (Hilly Holbrook). Here are some fun inside pics, posted with Amye’s permission.
Buy the book, see the movie and check out the incredible soundtrack.