Condensing a book, whether it is 100 page or 500 pages, to a film with the screen time of around two hours is never an easy task. If that wasn’t hard enough, the book purists are bound to complain about the differences between book and screen, even if it’s as simple as the shade of red being that little bit too dark. So how do the film adaptations compare to the original books?
Released as a film in 2011, The Help is based on the 2009 book by Kathryn Stockett. Set during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, aspiring author Skeeter (Emma Stone) sets out to write a book detailing the hardships endured by the African-American maids go through while working for white families. Meanwhile, Hilly Holbrook, head of the Jackson wives club is set on keeping the world segregated.
The film gained critical acclaim worldwide, with it going on to be nominated for four Oscars, with Octavia Spencer scooping the award for Best Supporting Actress as Minny. Minny is a fantastic character in both the film and the book, as a strong woman who won’t stand for anything she doesn’t like – until it comes to her husband. This is something that is missing from the film.
While in the book Minny regularly suffers at the hands of her husband Leeroy, with him even trying to kill her when he finds out he lost his job due to her, he is non-existent in the film. He is mentioned only in passing, with one scene with him off screen. With Leeroy missing from the film, Minny becomes a less sympathetic character than she is in the book, making her a harsher, no-nonsense character next to the more sensitive Aibileen (Viola Davis).
The main improvement in the film is the development of Celia Foote. Due to suffering multiple miscarriages, Celia Foote is a very weak, barely seen character. Most of the chapters centreing around Minny working in her house has Celia curled up in bed with her uttering very few lines. In the film, however, Jessica Chastain gives her more life with her eager to help Minny when she can and determined to fit in with the rest of the Jackson wives club.
Another slight change from the book was the less focus on Skeeter. The book follows Skeeter more closely, inspecting her relationship with her family and boyfriend however the film almost skirts over it. This could actually be seen as an improvement as it concentrates more heavily on the lives of the help rather than the rich white women surrounding them.
Overall, the film very closely follows the book and is a great adaptation of a very enjoyable book. With so much happening in the book, it must have been difficult to cut it down at all – which explains the run time to two and a half hours!
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