'The Help' Reviews: Does the Movie Live Up to the Book?

emma stone the helpThe movie The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett's New York Times bestselling novel, hit theaters today. It's got a great cast of actresses, including Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Allison Janney. The story follows the relationships between black and white families in the Jim Crow South during the 1960s, and is told mainly through the eyes of black maids.

Like with any movie based on a book that's so beloved (The Help was a New York Times bestseller), the question is not so much "Is it good?" (it is, according to Stir blogger Jeanne Sager), but rather "Does it live up to the book?" Because there's nothing worse than a movie that massacres your favorite tome.

Let's take a look and see what the critics have to say:


"Fans of Kathryn Stockett's folksy, ingratiating novel can rest easy: The director, Tate Taylor -- a childhood friend of the author, who, like her, grew up in Jackson, Miss., where the story is set -- has preserved the book's story line, characters, and confiding tone with loyalty worthy of any best friend." -- Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post

"Despite its occasional cloying moments, The Help transcends its comfort-food-for-Oprah’s Book Club-ready wrapping to get at something deeper, the gray in a story that seems so far removed as to be utterly black and white. And Davis and Spencer give faces and fully-fleshed out lives to women who must have been more than what they did for a living as The Help." -- Orlando Sentinel

"The novel made a lot of people feel good. It was sneaky. Stockett wrote tolerably in Aibileen and Minny’s voices -- in a way that keeps black vernacular inside dignified English, and avoids the literary dehumanization that Toni Morrison has written about. But as much as the book was about race and class, it was really about how feminism empowered Skeeter, and Stockett, to address other injustices. Tate Taylor, a childhood friend of Stockett, adapted and directed the movie. He applies a thick coat of gloss to most scenes. It’s hard not to imagine what trouble the passive, largely absent husbands of these bigoted women are up to off-screen. The death of the civil rights activist Medgar Evers is reported on television, so white supremacy is in the air, but the movie would have us believe that the racism of the time was the stuff of bridge clubs." -- Wesley Morris, The Boston Globe

"Tate Taylor wrote the screenplay and directs the film, based on Kathryn Stockett's popular novel, and does so lovingly. The acting is uniformly excellent, and the cause -- dragging the beginnings of civil rights into Jackson, Miss., at great risk -- couldn't be noble. What the film lacks is a strong point of view. The story is all over the place on that front, bouncing from one perspective to another. That can work well in a novel, but not so much in a movie. Also, and this may be unfair but it is still evident, 'The Help' carries a little hint of the Great White Savior about it." -- Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Central


The bottom line: If you liked the book, you won't be disappointed by the movie. If you thought the book was vapid, cliche, and too earnest, it's best to skip the flick.


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