What help does ‘The Help’ film give us to help us understand ‘The Help’ novel?

It is important to note that the 2011 film version of “The Help” is but an interpretation of the novel. It is not ‘the film of the book’, it is ‘a film interpretation of the book’. Films can use a multitude of different devices to present the story that a novel can’t, such as voiceovers, camera angles and the physical look of the settings and characters in full (in the book we obviously get description, but not the same form of atmosphere). 

I felt the contrast between the Bridge Club members and the Help were very well defined in the film. By way of appearance the Help wore very basic uniforms in dull pastel colours and had their hair in buns, whereas the Bridge Club members had very exuberant brightly coloured (almost neon) outfits, with ridiculously over-sized hair. Skeeter however wears much more basic clothing, and her hair is not as well kept. This almost immediately displays that she does not share the same bigoted attitudes as the other members, such as Hilly. When you read the book you do not ‘hear’ the accents of the snobbish Bridge Club, however the use of punctuation and slang in the book means you read the dialogue of the Help in their ‘accent’. Thus in the film we notice the slow southern drawl of the Bridge Club more, which is almost sweet and sickly, contrasting harshly with the comments that they make. There is also a contrast in their clothes as they are so fashionable and modern, yet their views are archaic.

The settings were also physically viewed in the film which also helped contrast between the black and white members of society. We can see that the posh Bridge Club members had large country houses (described in the book too, but having a physical appearance helps the contrast) whereas the Help lived either in large cramped apartment blocks (which only had a sweeping shot, but showed the poor conditions) or small ramshackle buildings. Aibileen’s house is very dark with dull colours, and both the exterior and interior look worn down. The kitchen is a heavily shown place to contrast. Aibileen’s kitchen was very small and could hardly fit a few people in, whereas Miss Leefolt’s kitchen was almost too big considering her small family. Gadgets were shown in the houses, such as mixers and hoovers; this isn’t heavily shown in the book, it was only briefly mentioned. The Help were originally employed to perform labour intensive tasks, like brushing floors etc, now there’s hoovers and other gadgets there are no longer many labour intensive jobs. This shows how the Help were really only there as glorified babysitters, as their only major task was looking after the children.

There are only a few flaws in the film. The film is a very humourous interpretation of the novel, and thus that reduces the serious impact of the novel, as it seems only a ‘feel good’ film. Also the atmosphere of the film is cheery, the colours are sometimes brighter than they should be (e.g. the bus for the Help is a very bright yellow and is too clean, it would be more run down). Also the weather (something you don’t really consider when reading the book) is very sunny and bright, and makes some of the film seem too cheery.

 

Thanks for reading,

Jack

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