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Bonkers for Books! — "The Help"

By Katie Steen and Ella Jenak in Arts & Culture

"Bonkers for Books!" is a recurring feature by Royal Banner critics Katie Steen and Ella Jenak about novels that have been adapted into movies. This week, they compare and contrast Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel "The Help" with its 2011 film adaptation, directed by Tate Taylor. s The Book “The Help” tells the story of two black maids living in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 who team up with an audacious white journalist to write a novel about working as a colored maid in the South. The stories the women have to tell are both heartbreaking and humorous, but they share a common goal: to bring change to Jackson. The author, Kathryn Stockett, perfectly balances her comedic characters with the novel’s more serious theme of civil rights. s Stockett writes from different character’s perspectives — each with a strong, unique voice — to draw the reader into the novel and add personality. The three narrators are Aibileen Clark, a kindhearted woman who knows exactly how to make the children she raises feel special, Minny Jackson, a sass-mouthing maid who isn’t afraid to stand up to the white women she works for, and Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, an awkward girl who would much rather get a job than a husband. The novel’s dialect gives it a unique flavor, but does not make it any less easy to read. You can clearly hear the characters’ southern drawl as they engage in witty dialogue that is laugh-out-loud funny. Even casual readers will enjoy this well-written, heart-warming novel. s The Film

Similar to its print counterpart, the movie version of “The Help” uses plenty of amusing dialogue, but still sticks to the theme of civil rights (though not to the extent that the novel does). From the second the movie starts to the end credits, “The Help” is very visually appealing. The beautiful and elaborate set design immerses the viewer in the 1960’s while the costumes would drive any fashion lover mad with envy. And the cinematography is outstanding — making the film an excellent visual counterpart to the novel. s Emma Stone plays the role of Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan phenomenally. She deviates from the dramatic, sarcastic teen character everyone loved her for in Easy A, but still keeps a humorous edge in her role. Her range of talent is very impressive, and she has shown that she can play a variety of roles beautifully. s Also impressive on the screen was Ahna O’Reilly, previously only known for small roles in films like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Nancy Drew.” She plays the part of Elizabeth Leefolt, a passive-aggressive housewife who doesn’t know how to love her own children. O’Reilly is particularly admirable because she played a role that could have gone unnoticed, but is instead an interesting and dynamic part of the film. It would also be unfair not to mention the incredible talents of Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, the actresses who play the two main maids. Both of them are great on screen, and make us both laugh and cry. s One downside to the film is that it does not change narrators, as the novel does. Instead the whole story is told from Aibileen's (one of the black maid) point of view. Also, some of the characters’ thick southern accents make it difficult to understand the dialogue in the film. We suggest that you read the book before watching the movie, so you can truly appreciate all the witty moments in the story. Overall though, “The Help” is a beautiful and enjoyable film that still manages to accurately represent the original novel it brings to the big screen. s

To Sum It Up... Book: 5/5 "The Help" is perfect for any student who wants a light book to read in his or her free time. It's entertaining, intelligent, and easy to read! Movie: 4/5 "The Help" is an entertaining movie on its own, but viewers who have read the book will enjoy it even more. s s

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