Thursday, August 11, 2011

Weekly Inspiration: The Help

Last night The Help premiered on the big screen, and guess who was there thirty minutes early to get a good seat (and who bought her tickets - wisely, as it turned out - early in the morning)?  That's right, me!  The theater was packed but we had perfect seats about three quarters of the way up, LNRB had chips and guacamole in her purse, and all was right with the world.

Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Emma Stone

We read The Help for book club a while ago (at least a year, I believe) and I think it's safe to say we all enjoyed it.  I liked the book - a lot - but I can't say I loved it.  I think that has more to do with the fact that the books I love are usually YA or middle grade fantasy or fables (Watership Down, The Golden Compass, The Graveyard Book), which is something I didn't really realize until a few weeks ago when I started working on my new book.  But I digress.

I was worried about this film.  I think Emma Stone is cute and I like her as an actress, but I thought it was an odd casting decision.  Eugenia (aka Skeeter) is supposed to be tall, gangly, and frizzy.  Emma Stone doesn't strike me as any of those things.  Fortunately, I was wrong.  Stone was actually great in the role, and while I was a little thrown off by the way the previews seemed to pitch The Help as a comedy, the film managed to balance the humor with the heaviness of the real theme of the novel: what it was like to be a black maid working for a white woman during the civil rights movement.

See, not frizzy.  Just annoyingly cute.
Fair warning, ladies: this film is a major tearjerker.  I think I cried on a half dozen separate occasions during the two and a half hours (oh yeah, it's long, too), and LNRB was sobbing next to me.  As a mom, I am a complete sap when it comes to anything with kids, and the scenes between Aibileen (the first woman to agree to help Skeeter write her book about being a maid) and Mae Mobley (the daughter of the woman Aibileen works for) got me every time without fail.

"I is kind, I is smart, I is important."  Just pass me the whole damn box of Kleenex, will ya?

All told, this was a great film.  But the reason I'm choosing it as my "weekly inspiration" has more to do with the novel than the movie.  The Help was Kathryn Stockett's debut novel, and it almost didn't get published.  A friend sent me this interview today, and it simultaneously gives me hope and depresses the crap out of me.  Kathryn Stockett had sixty rejections before landing an agent on the sixty-first try.  "What if," she says, "I had given up at fifteen? Or forty? Or even sixty?"  Stockett admits to sneaking off to hotels to write after her daughter was born (a tactic I haven't tried but have to say I admire), to lying to friends about how many queries she sent out because no one could understand how she could continue trying after so many rejections.  I know how she feels - I haven't lied, per se, but it's not information I offer freely!  I also admire an author who admits to wanting to be published.  So many authors say, "It's not about being published!  You have to write because you love it, not because you want to be published."  To which I say, "Poppycock!  The two don't have to be mutually exclusive!"  I love to write, and I want to get published.  There's no shame in that.

Stockett joins Sara Gruen as one of my writing heroes, not necessarily because I love their books (although I do enjoy them), but because I admire their perseverance, tenacity, grit, and most of all, the fact that they can be open and honest about their failures as well as their success.  Those are the kinds of writers I admire, and the kind I hope to be one day, too.

1 comment:

kerry2642 said...

Mara.. I read the book and absolutely loved it.. I think mainly because I understood exactly what it was all about..not being brought up in the south.. but being brought up by a lovely Lady.. (Our Mom had some problems and required the "Help".. "Essie" looked like Aunt Jemima.. and I can so remember her.. and her white apron.. into my teens Pat. had left and there was Hap and me and Miss Ethel.. HOw she loved our dining room was polished to the max.. anyway.. just thought you would enjoy a little tidbit from my growing up days and our "Help" Going to see it with Patty on Monday.. Thinking of bringing a box of kleenex with me!! LOved your Blog as usual..thankyou.. hugs "AK"