24 Nov 2011

Movie Magic on Thanksgiving: The Help

My Thanksgiving has been un-food related so far, unless you count the grocery shopping for Saturday's feast when my family will be celebrating our own version of Thanksgiving (which as usual involves having lots of friends over). It's hard to do a full-blown turkey dinner when it's not a holiday and you have to consider people's work schedules and general fatigue. So while we're outside of the US, Saturday it is!

My sister flew in from England this morning to join us for the holiday, and after lunch we kidnapped our dad for our own father-daughter holiday tradition (any holiday will do): going to the movies! The selection was a bit limited, but I managed to twist their arms a bit and get them to agree to seeing "Criadas y Señoras" a.k.a. The Help. I felt that at the very least, it being an American holiday and all, we could go see a movie depicting life in the US in the not-so-distant past. I think the fact that it was an earlier show than our other option probably weighed more in my favour... but they were glad in the end! 

All three of us (my sister, my dad and myself) really enjoyed this movie, although my dad did say that in a way it was a bit depressing. I found it to be disturbing... the society it depicted, the people's mentality, their ignorance... Although intellectually I know about all this (racism, social differences, sexism, education etc.) having studied it in school, observed it in other films, emotionally it still feels like a punch in the gut. How could people seriously think and behave like this? And I'm not just talking about the treatment of the black servants, but those suburban women so disconnected from reality were just as scary to me! Separate restrooms because of disease transmission? Seriously???

For any who haven't seen it (came out in the US in August, should be out there on dvd soon), it's the story of Skeeter, a young white woman who comes home from college back to Jackson Mississippi with dreams of becoming a writer (while all her mother wants for her is a husband and kids) and who wakes up to the realisation of how people in her social circle treat "the help", particularly the black maids who raise their children (and raised them as well!). She decides to write a book about these maids' lives from their own point of view and manages to convince two of them to share their war stories with her, in spite of their fear of possible repercussions. We're in the early 1960s, beginning of the Civil Rights movement, and those involved are terrified of what could happen to them (at the hands of the KKK and others) if they were known to be participating in this project. It's both a horrifying, moving, poignant and at times funny tale with some wonderful women brought to life by some amazing actresses, particularly Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer who play Aibileen and Minny. And any scene Minny is in is unforgettable!

On this Thanksgiving Day I am very grateful that society has changed so much, that the world depicted in this film feels so alien to me that I barely recognise it, and that there were men and women brave enough to stand up and help bring about an end to this discrimination.

I hope all of you who are celebrating the holiday have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones! :o)


  1. Good review of the movie, Cris. I saw it and had already read the book. And I lived in Georgia in the early 1960s and remember well the situation. I had a job at a store working at the candy counter and a young black man chatted me up. When he left, another worker came over and told me if I knew what was good for me I wouldn't do anything like that again. It could have gotten the young man lynched.

    I too am glad things have changed so much. And I do hope your time with your family was fabulous! :-)

  2. We had planned to see this movie this past week, but we flew to California for Thanksgiving – we’ll see the movie soon. I enjoyed your review.

  3. I've read some pretty negative magazine reviews about the film here, but I had been wanting to see it regardless of what one film critic said. I have a weakness for "nice films that movie critics hate." :)

    As for Thanksgiving, how difficult is it to find un pavo the size of Montana in Spain? In France, full-sized turkeys aren't available until December!


  4. DJan, my dad mentioned some stories about my grandmother from that era and how even though she was Canadian she'd lived in the DC area long enough that she still had certain reactions...

    Vagabonde, Barb, go see it! Negative reviews? I haven't read any!

    As for Thanksgiving... well Barb it's VERY hard to find a decent turkey here this far before Christmas! We almost went without because my dad kept ordering two and the places kept failing him! He finally found one 8kg bird (instead of the two 10kb birds he wanted), did a ham and a bunch of the other usual stuff... and in spite of being 20 people for lunch on Saturday we ate turkey sandwiches for another 3 days! :p
    Was fabulous, and our Spanish friends really enjoyed themselves as well. :o)

  5. I just read the book and thought it was really good. I'm just old enough to remember a lot of similar instances from the early 60's. Whatever you are reading in the book or seeing on the screen probably isn't one tenth of what it was really like. Thank goodness for change! I want to see the movie but haven't had a chance to yet.


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