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Help Me

08/12/2011

The movie version of The Help opens today, and I have absolutely no desire to see it. I read the book, I liked the book, but this movie is not the book I read.

The HelpNow I know from my decades in the movie retail and content business that trailers do not tell the truth. (Duh.) Movie trailers are advertising, and advertising is a glamorization at best and an outright lie at worst. Trailers are designed to lure in a particualr audience. They often tell too much, and of course tend to show the best parts.

So when they don’t look good, that’s a big, red flag for you, dear viewer. Think about it. If the movie’s best clips stink, how much better will the other 89 minutes be? Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot. Who makes a 90-minute movie anymore? Make that 210 more minutes wasted on a shitty film.

Forgive me. I rant. And now back to The Help.

As a friend of mine commented, the trailer makes this movie look like a Lifetime flick. That alone would drive me away, but, more to the point of my horror, Kathryn Stockett’s book was not a bubbly chic-lit comedy. (Racism in the ’60s. Yeah, that’s a laugh riot.)

It was certainly funny at times, but not in that uplifting, girl-bonding, situational, things-are-gonna-be-OK way that so pervades this awful advertisement. Sure, the characters are amusing to varying degrees, but that’s a human attribute, not a sweeping tonal condition. The Help was often humorous because of its reflection on the era. Some of the things people do or say in that context are funny simply because of what we know with the advantage of historical perspective.

The HelpThe tone of the trailer is completely wrong as an adaptation of the book’s point-of-view. While I would certainly call “chick-lit” one of The Help‘s several overlapping genres, I would also classify it as serious, character-based, and thoughtfully detailed. At times, it was downright frightening. I felt real danger for the women involved as I read. There is nothing dangerous about the Help trailer—expect perhaps its overflowing schmaltz.

What I don’t understand is why that tone had to change for a different medium. Of course, money is always the issue. If an uplifting dramedy is apt to be more profitable than a serious period drama (as is likely), then that’s a reason to shift the tone. But this is a bestselling book that already has a huge potential audience. It’s not a routine script aiming its shot at a moving target.

I am sure there’s a lot of money to be made from this version of The Help. I just wish they’d made the book instead.

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From → Books, Movies

2 Comments
  1. I read the book six months ago and I saw the film (courtesy of Disney) last weekend. I really liked it, to my surprise. I think the clips suck and make it look fluffy and trivial, but the treatment of the topics was pretty good. Now, it could have gone another direction, grittier, a darker lighting style, a 1960s that looked more like The Ice Storm (ok, that was 70s, but you know what I mean, right?). This was accessible, obviously, and easy to watch. You don’t need to see it, but I thought I’d let you know that it’s not as terrible as it looks.

  2. mkc permalink

    Well that’s at least something. Thanks for the update. Clearly, I was not the target audience for that trailer.

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