Monday, August 15, 2011

Movie Review: The Help (or Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Harlem's Interactive Theater)

Photo Credit
To cap off a wonderful day at Nia's first birthday party, my awesome dad watched Nia while me, my siblings and mom hopped the express train one stop down to see The Help at the Magic Johnson Theater on 125th ST. 

My silly siblings on the subway to see "The Help"
I thought I had posted before about how the trailer for The Help gave the impression that it was a full-on comedy, whereas when I read the book it I found it to be about 80/20 on the drama vs. comedy percentage (**UPDATE: I did find the post! It's here.**). Because of this I was very bothered when I saw the trailer but nonetheless, I knew I wanted to see it. I guess the marketing team wanted to make the content more palatable for a more mass audience and those who may not have read the book. (A word on the demos of the movie was shared by EW: "Adult women were the driving force behind the $25 million movie’s success this weekend. According to Disney, 74 percent of the audience was female and 60 percent was over the age of 35.").

Anyway . . . 

It's been plastered all over the internet about the controversy of the author, Sockett, being sued by the family of the supposed maid she was writing about for her own personal experience. For me, the story was still very compelling despite whatever controversy there may be, and it brought to mind my own family history and the experience of my own grandmothers during that time.

Now an interlude on the Magic Johnson Theater . . .

Seeing the movie at this particular theater was indeed a unique experience given the subject matter of the film and the location of the theater. My mom thought the theater would be packed, but surprisingly it wasn't. There were a good 6 or so empty rows and we had a good choice of seats for our group of 5.

My experience at the Magic Johnson Theater has not always been very positive. It's known for being quite interactive - this means people often talk to the screen and to each other all throughout the movie. There's lots of clapping, gasping and commentary, oftentimes funnier than the movie lines themselves. 

I had seen SATC here as a last resort because it was sold out everywhere else in Manhattan on opening night and it was an absolute NIGHTMARE with it being delayed nearly an hour and my friend who accompanied me having to skip out just before the end to make her commuter train home.

A quick look on Yelp returns the following reviews: 

You will endure cell phone ringing and then conversations, ongoing during the movie ("Yo, where you at ...?"), boisterous small children (and adults for that matter), and belligerence should you speak up about any of the noise. Then there is the talking ... once the movie is deemed uninteresting, people often strike up conversations to beat the boredom.

One of the first things I noticed was this stale, awful smell after sitting down. It reminded me of when you first turn on the A/C after not using it during the winter.

The scariest thing I have ever seen in a movie theater I saw here... the women's bathroom. Phew. You have no idea. It looked like the poop fairy had been tortured and killed and her remains used as an avant garde art installation speaking to the evils of the medias effect on society. 

You get the point! And sure enough our showing of The Help had two children nearby (one about 5 years old who kept telling her mother in an amazingly crisp, surround sound voice that she was cold and wanted to go home and another who was about Nia's age and was making Nia-like sounds - I'm surprised my milk didn't come in!). But why do I keep going back, you may ask? Cause tickets are a few bucks cheaper than the rest of Manhattan (including $6 matinees) AND it's only one subway stop away.

So yes, I put up with the nonsense and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie! Several of the scenes were how I had pictured them in my mind - especially of stories being shared at Aibileen's table. One of the aspects of the book-to-film translation that I most appreciated was the the depiction of real-life events such as the assassination of JFK and Medgar Evers. Showing the actual footage and playing the soundbites tugged at me emotionally and made me think about how my family had lived during that tumultuous time.

I'm definitely hoping for some Oscar nods for the cast too. Besides Octavia Spencer, Sissy Spacek and Viola Davis were outstanding! Overall, I highly recommend The Help - it's my favorite movie so far this year.

BTW, I'm a huge fan of Rotten Tomatoes, and I find that I usually agree with their aggregator freshness ratings for most movies. However, while they have The Help a freshness rating of 73%, I'd give it 90%. I'm holding out on the last 10% because of how Cicely Tyson as Celestine was portrayed as so weak and childlike - not at all how I had pictured her in the book. And that God-awful wig. C'mon! Also, part of that missing 10% is on account of the trailer being too comedic. I guess I shouldn't rate the marketing team's efforts as part of the film, but I did find the added humorous quips and looks throughout the film were definitely more than in the book. But still, 90% is still pretty good, and I'm happy to hear that The Help beat out Eat. Pray Love.'s opening which I had absolutely no interest in seeing after hearing the author speak on Oprah about her "hardships," but that's another topic for another post . . .

Enough already! Go see The Help - you'll love it!


  1. I think the creative team played it "safe" with the trailer because dramas aren't typically released during the summer months... these are usually saved for the Fall while the fun, comedic and superhero movies are what we get all summer. It was a kind of risk to release this film in August. Anyhoot, I can't wait to see it, thanks for the review!!

  2. Thanks for the review. I have the book and I want to see the film. Baby Nia is the cutest as well. i am a new follower as well.

    Lisa x

  3. @LESAPEA MUSINGS Welcome Lisa! Thank you for following and the comment love.

  4. I went an saw this on monday and i have yet to read the book - however I thought it was a GREAT movie. it hit a cord w/ me being from the south, one that didn't feel so comfortable. i'll make sure not to go out of my way to see a movie @ this theater though : ) hehe