“Go to New York, Ms. Skeeter. Go find your life.”
~Aibileen Clark, via Kathryn Stockett in The Help
If you have read Kathryn’s best-selling novel – even if you haven’t – please do yourself a favor and run, don’t walk, to your local theater for a showing of the movie adaptation. I can say with confidence that you won’t be disappointed. And, if the audience I shared the experience with is a good barometer, you will also laugh, cheer, cry, and feel more inspired than you can possibly imagine. In fact, if I could only use one word to sum up this film, that’d be it: inspiring. There’s something very, deeply, fully special about the book, and to see it translated to the big screen adds an entirely new dynamic. It takes the images Kathryn paints so beautifully with her words and makes them come alive. We’re transported back in time to Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s and become a part of an extraordinary journey taken by three extraordinary women and the people who fill their lives. We see their struggles. We understand their boundaries. And then we watch them break those boundaries and cross all kinds of lines. We’re right there beside them as they change the world – one word, one story, one book at a time.
Without giving away the details (seriously: read the book and see the movie, have I made myself clear?), I’ll say that they did a fabulous job following the plot and including the milestone moments, both big and small, that are at the very heart of the novel. They showed the power of a myriad of bonds: family, friendship, and the relationships that encompass both. The casting could not have been more spot-on. Emma Stone positively shone and sparkled as Skeeter, Octavia Spencer achieved a delicate balance between tugging at the heartstrings and being laugh-out-loud funny as Minny, and Viola Davis embodied Aibileen with stunning complexity. Together, they told the tale of three women whose lives intertwine in the most compelling way. Their journeys are separate, but their story is one. It’s unified. It’s proof of what happens when different threads are woven together with dedication, devotion, and diligence: you create a tapestry with everlasting stitches.
There was one scene left out that I’d have loved to see – Aibileen taking over for Skeeter at the newspaper – but beyond that, the depiction was so true to the essence of the book. I can only imagine what a sense of overwhelming pride, jubilation, and pure emotion Kathryn must have felt the first time she saw the film. To have your vision come to life before your eyes instead of playing like a movie in your mind, words cannot describe how magical and moving it must be. It’s so well-deserved for Kathryn. She’s an example to so many of us who are pursuing our own writing dreams. Never give up. If you believe in your story with all your heart and soul, keep going, keep trying, keep working until your dream becomes reality.
That’s what Skeeter did. Even when so many people told her it wasn’t possible, she followed her passion. She broke down walls, she took a leap of faith, she told the stories she couldn’t not tell. Maybe that’s why her character resonated most strongly for me, both in the movie and the book. Maybe that’s why, nearly a year after I read it, I still find myself thinking of her. She’s a reminder of who writers are. Of what we feel. What we love. What we do. What we create. What we love and what we live. There is a breathtaking scene towards the end where Aibileen tells Skeeter to “go find your life.” Reading it made me pause. Hearing it gave me chills. Because even though I’m not there yet, even though sometimes it feels like I never will be, I know what my life is. I know what I pray for it to be. Will it play out that way? Things never happen exactly as we plan. We never know what curves are waiting around the bend. But if Skeeter can do it, maybe I can, too. One thing’s for certain: I’ll never give up. I’ll remember the lessons these women taught, the lessons they make us feel. And, like so many other people whose lives have been touched by this story, I’ll be inspired.