Let's face it: 9 times out of 10, book-to-movie adaptions are going to disappoint. (See any Nicholas Sparks book/film for proof.) Even so, we were excited to see the film based on Kathryn Stockett's best selling novel, "The Help." As one of our favorite books (we read all 560 pages in less than two days...), we had faith in the movie. How could one go wrong with such a talented cast and such a powerful message?
Answer: Director Tate Taylor found a way to.
Don't get us wrong. The basic story was the same - Skeeter, (Emma Stone), a young white woman from Mississippi is unhappy with the way her friends' maids are being treated, asks for help from said maids to write a collection of stories based on these women's lives. Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer) are among the maids that help Miss Skeeter, but although the book is published under aliases, all of the women involved are nervous of the consequences if the truth of their identities is revealed.
We enjoyed the movie thoroughly, but we aren't sure we would have if we hadn't loved the book so much. The movie was very fast paced (a little TOO fast paced) and left a lot of major plot points on the cutting room floor. While some of these missing scenes from the book seemed to help (the lack of Skeeter's on again/off again relationship with Stuart), major scenes involving Mae Mobley were missing, leaving Aibileen's relationship with the child not as impactful as it was within the pages of the novel.
What we DID enjoy is the semi-change of ending with some of the sub-plots (NOT Aibileen's, but you can't please everyone all of the time...). Also pleasing to us was the great work of the wonderful cast. It was clear from the start that Davis would be perfect for the role of Aibileen. This woman makes us cry in everything she's in. But it was Bryce Dallas Howard, Emma Stone, and Octavia Spencer who really surprised us.
We've seen Howard in other roles, but nothing that anyone should care about ("The Village," "Eclipse"). However, as the bitch that makes us hate all white people EVER, Hilly Holbrook, Howard SHINES and makes it look almost fun to play such a pig-headed racist. If there's a stage version with all men, count us in.
Stone also surprised us greatly, who we've only ever seen in comedies. As queen of the modern comedy, we were hesitant to see her in such a dramatic movie, but she won us over and we will never doubt her again. Emma, you can have whatever role you want. We support you.
Would we see it again? Yes. Will we own it on DVD? Yes. But we'd rather just read the book again.