Page to Screen: The Help

The Help

Change Begins With A Whisper...

Book Release:  2009       Movie Release:  2011

(Unlike other reviews on the site, the 'From Book to Movies' feature has to reveal spoilers to make sense.)


I was working part-time at the local movie theatre when 'The Help' was released. I hadn't heard of the book. I wasn't big on Goodreads at the time, and my reading hadn't been as fierce that year. People flocked to see it opening night, and left raving. During "theatre checks", I saw several scenes of the movie and became intrigued.  I eventually saw it and enjoyed the film and its values, including fun humor. Curious about the bestseller that created it, I was able to read the book a few months later.

In this case I saw the movie first. I almost always prefer reading the book before seeing the film, but in this case it didn't end up dampening my enjoyment.

Brief Movie Thoughts

The movie summarizes Southern charm and feel. From Fried Chicken, plenty of iced tea, house dresses and gossiping housewives. The cast was expertly chosen to bring the story to life, having such stars as Emma Stone, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer. The movie focuses on the three women and their tales equally. The movie is more fun than the book is. Wherein the book focuses more on the drama aspect, the movie tries to be more humorous and catchy, a normal progression from page to screen.

Brief Book Thoughts

The book skips around from POV to fully illustrate the story. Each section is lengthy, which is a good thing. I hate when books switch around too often. Sometimes of course I would grow more used to a certain viewpoint and grow impatient to skip back to that one, but with The Help this wasn't too big of a deal. The book was more convincing and realistic with some of the emotions and driving influences. Full review here.

Biggest Differences

The main stuff says the same, so the book translated to the film quite well. Even some of the minor details were saved.

I'd say the bigger differences was concentrated on the bonding friendship of some of the secondary characters, such as other women and their maids and how much the maids helped them through trying struggles. Also, the separate bathrooms was focused on more on the book than the movie (although the movie impressed this point strongly as well.) It's probably a length issue.

There were small changes in the movie which raise the racial balance to the noble black side more than the white. One of the most fascinating things about the book was concentrating on Aibileen and raising all the children she did. In the movie this is mentioned but more that it was the children growing up and viewing her differently, which hurt her. In the book she more of less left them because of this. The facts aren't quite different, but it was painted in lights subtly different enough to leave varied impressions with the audience.

A large difference with Constantine's daughter. In the book she passed for "white" due to lineage and this caused issues for her, Constantine, and others. In the movie she was black and this backstory was removed entirely.

In the book it also seems as if the mother really doesn't regret getting rid of Constantine, while in the movie she does regret it and sees herself as being ungracious.

If I had a gripe, I'd say that the movie made the people seem less realistic and in-depth as they did not have as convincing emotions/backstory as the book gave them.

Glad The Movie Kept

Staying true to the main characters. I feel the movie wished to portray the literary creations as accurately as possible and not make any changes in their personal lives, personalities, driving goals, or events.

The infamous pie scene. Of course this is more detailed in the book and better explained to where it made more sense, but this was one of the the most enjoyed scenes screen and page shared.

Who's The Big Winner?

The book for having more depth for the characters, even if the movie is a little more fun to experience. Since the director did such a great job being faithful to the source when bringing it over, and the actors did excellent jobs portraying their roles and the heartfelt depth, it can be an either/or factor.