I was in Texas for the weekend and got a chance to watch some good movies I hadn’t seen. I read the book “The Help” and loved it so I really wanted to see the movie. The second movie is called “The Visitor” and just rented it on iTunes by chance, it was only $1.99.
Based on the book with the same tittle by Kathryn Stockettt , this movie stars Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard and Viola Davis among others. Set in the 1960s during the civil rights movement, in Jackson Mississippi. It tells the story of Skeeter, an author who is writing about the help. Aibileen is an African-American maid who helps her. Aibileen works for Skeeters friend Elizabeth, caring for toddler Mae Mobley Leefolt. Minny is Aibileen’s sassy confrontational friend who frequently tells her employers what she thinks of them. Lets say she gets fired a lot. Minny’s most recent employer was Mrs. Walters, mother of Hilly Holbrook. Hilly is the social leader of the community, and head of the Junior League. The “bad guy” of the movie if you will. She does such a good job, you really hate her at the end and laugh whole heartedly when Minny gets back at her.
For me, what really struck was that this was different from anything ever written about that time. It took a closer look inside the homes of the characters, their family dynamics and their children. To give your children over for someone else to raise but then to treat the women that raise them with such disregard and lack of respect really struck a chord with me. It was so sad to see the character of Elizabeth threat her child with such neglect. To see Aibileen try to comfort Mae was heartbreaking. To see Hilly treat her own mother badly but also everyone else around her, including her own childhood friend Skeeter was also hard. Hilly is truly a product of her time. She really thinks she is a good person when she is nothing but ignorant and mean. Skeeter on the other hand is the opposite of Hilly, kind, educated and the hero for these maids because she gives them a voice. A voice to tell their stories good and bad.
The maids tell their stories of struggle, abuse, neglect, stories of love for the children they care for, and they can really paint a picture of the people they work for and the kind of racial injustice they had to deal with in their daily lives.
I became attached to the women and their stories. I wanted them to succeed. I laughed and cried and felt with every part of my body and that’s what a good story is supposed to do!
“The Visitor” is a drama film written and directed by Thomas McArthy. It tells the story of a lonely man brilliantly played by Richard Jenkins. His life changes when he returns to his NYC apartment (that he has not been to in a long time, as he is living and working in Connecticut) to find an immigrant couple living there. He asks them to leave and they do so willingly but then sees that they have nowhere to go and lets them stay.
They drastically change each others lives as they know it.
This is not a story with a happy ending.
It’s a story about identity, immigration in post 9/11 New York and cross cultural relationships. It was sad and heavy and really carried a message about where we are as a country and the issue of immigration.
And as I watched this and “The Help” I could not help but see parallels and similarities.
We are still dealing with issues like racial injustice and immigration in a way that disregards and/or violate certain populations human rights. We’ve come a long way but stories like “The Help” and “The Visitor” remind us that we still have a long way to go.
Thank you for reading and I hope you watch these movies and they make you think as much as they did me!
For The Visitor, McCarthy won the 2008 Independent Spirit Award for best director
Richard Jenkins was nominated for Best Actor in the 2009 Academy Awards