Here's a trailer for The Help, the movie adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's bestselling mom-novel about an ambitious, free-spirited young woman in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi struggling to a give voice, in book form, to black domestic workers employed by many of the city's upper-class white families. It's uplifting, slightly cornball fare that could strike a particular chord.
I will admit, without too much embarrassment, to having torn through this book myself in about a day. I was at my parents' house in Rhode Island, where there is not much to do but read if it isn't sunny, and it was raining, and my mother had just read it and said it was at least entertaining. And man was she right. Couldn't put that fucker down. Yet I couldn't, and still really can't, explain what was particularly so engaging about it. I suppose it was pleasingly simple to follow the story's familiar trajectory, tracing the familiar arch of a feel-good story, its soaring highs and "uh oh, an obstacle!" lows. I suppose too that I liked reading a cozy little story about a world I don't have any personal context in — I wasn't alive in the 1960s, I'm not from the South, I'm neither a rich white lady nor a poor black woman, I've never had or been a servant — even though it was, I suspect, a somewhat cutesy, a-little-too-easy depiction of that world. Should race stories be "cozy"? Probably not! I don't know. The thing is just fun to read. A fact which left me, and this is more embarrassing, rather excited for the movie.
Well, I can't say that now, having watched this trailer, I still feel as excited. I was hoping they'd go a little more, I don't know, serious or something. The book is certainly reasonably lighthearted, but this trailer makes the movie look like a big, bouncy, sunshiny joke. Hm. Maybe terrible, ingrain, institutionalized racism isn't really all that funny? Sure they're probably just trying to get butts in seats, the same August lady-butts that made Julie & Julia a hit two years ago, with this cheery clip reel, but I dunno. I guess the whole thing comes across slightly lower-rent than I'd hoped. And it looks a little cheap, too! Not terribly well-lit and not convincingly period. Oh well.
I mean really, oh well. Getting upset about a movie adaptation of The Help is only one step up from getting upset about Ron Howard butchering The Da Vinci Code. We're not talking about Never Let Me Go here. It's airport fiction and, it seems, this might be an airplane movie. But then of course I'm not following one of story's important lessons, about not judging based on appearances, etc. So then where does that leave me? Help!