September 3, 2011

Book to Movie: The Help.

recently a friend and i continued our tradition of going to see book-to-movie adaptations together. we started with The Time Traveler's Wife, which i read back in 2004 and have read it probably once a year ever since. it's one of my all-time favorite books and second only to the Harry Potter series as my go-to "comfort book."

(for those unfamiliar with "comfort media"- it's the same principle as comfort food. books you love and can read over & over again, movies you know by heart but watch a couple times a year anyway, music you've memorized but can't help putting it in most iTunes playlists you make. stuff that just feels good. but it doesn't necessarily have to be happy- i tear up every time i read the TTW, yet i keep coming back to it.)

we both had low expectations for the TTW movie (Eric Bana does NOT look like Egon Schiele, harrumph) but were pleasantly surprised by how faithful the movie was to the story, and how much we ultimately liked the movie. since then, we have also seen together:

Eat Pray Love: loved the book, hated the movie, now questioning if i even like the book anymore
The Lovely Bones: liked the book, liked the movie (would've loved it were it not sooo long)
Water for Elephants: liked the book, liked the movie

our most recent viewing was of The Help. in short, i loved the book and liked the movie. i grew up in the South with a housekeeper/nanny named Annie Mae, so some of the story hit close to home. Annie Mae worked for my grandmother and raised my dad and uncle, and when my grandmother moved into a nursing home, she started coming over to our house. she babysat me in the afternoons after preschool/kindergarten, where my afternoon snack often consisted of fried chicken and green beans cooked in bacon fat. it was the 80's, so the social climate was very different than Jackson, MS in the 60's. By then, Annie Mae came to our house less as an employee, and more as a family member, a third grandmother or great aunt. when she died, i was listed in the obituary as one of her granddaughters.

so, while i couldn't relate to the main plot of racism/social unrest/dangerous political climate, there were small moments in the book (and movie) that i recognized from my childhood. i had high hopes for the movie, but what could have become a classic film was way too schmaltzy and melodramatic for me. Not quite Lifetime-movie-bad, but i wouldn't be surprised if that was in the director's background. i felt like they did the story injustice by putting such a simple, positive spin on it. although, kudos for keeping in the bloody miscarriage scene. i thought for sure they wouldn't go there.

(apparently someone at NPR felt the same way. they recommend reading "Where is the Voice Coming From?" by Eudora Welty to get a more accurate picture of Jackson in the 1960's.)

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