When you love a book—I mean really love it—you approach its screen adaptation with a curious mix of hopefulness and combativeness: “Oh, I hope they do it justice” blended with “they better not screw it up.”
So I’m happy to report that newcomer Tate Taylor’s screen version of The Help—a book that I loved, your mama loved, and, more importantly, Oprah loved—not only does the book justice, but manages to replicate many of its specific and satisfying joys.
In Jim-Crow-era Mississippi, Skeeter (Emma Stone), a recent college grad who has ambitions beyond cotillion parties and bridge club teas, wants to give a voice to the exploited and demeaned black domestic servants, aka, “the help.” So she approaches a friend’s maid, Aibileen (Viola Davis)—and asks her to share her story for a potential book.
This, of course, could have real consequences for both of them: Skeeter could lose her (already shaky) social standing; Aibileen could get fired, arrested, or worse (racial violence was running rampant in Jackson at that time). But a slow trust forms between the two women and Aibileen, inspired by a church sermon about standing up for what’s right, agrees to tell her story. Soon Aibileen’s...