Helping Hands Get The Help Done
- Monday, August 08, 2011
“I think Skeeter’s a wonderful character for girls to watch,” shares Allison Janney (Juno), who plays her mother, Charlotte Phelan. “I love watching her.”
The struggle between Charlotte and Skeeter runs parallel to the complex relationships between white women and their black housekeepers. And just as the help doesn’t truly engage with the employers, neither do Charlotte and Skeeter really know what’s going on in one another’s lives.
While Skeeter is sneaking around writing her book, Charlotte is keeping secrets of her own—specifically the source of her chronic health problems and also what really happened years earlier when Constantine, the family maid who raised Skeeter and loved her as her own, was said to have quit and left the family household without even a goodbye.
Skeeter has never understood why. But like her book, when it is finally published and released in the local bookstore, the truth eventually comes out.
“I love that part of the story,” Janney reveals of a climactic and confrontational scene between Charlotte and Skeeter toward film’s end. “[Charlotte] is finally able to confess to Skeeter what she’s done [regarding Constantine] and even though it causes just even more drama between them, I think Skeeter realizes her mother is not a bad person. She sees her mother and knows she made a mistake. And I think that helps her be able to forgive her. And we see how awful she feels to tell her [the truth]. But she tells Skeeter how proud she is of what she’s done [by writing the book], and it really resonates with audiences.”
A Dash of This, A Pinch of That
Even though Skeeter doesn’t name names in the book and “Anonymous” is listed as the author, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to help Hilly and the other Junior League ladies figure out who is who as they read through the different maids’ stories in the “scandalous” new book everyone is talking about.
As one of the most delicious characters in the film, Hilly is also just downright awful. And in all of her self-righteous socialite ways—including her efforts to introduce an outrageous “Home Help Sanitation Initiative” to encourage the building of separate, outdoor restrooms for the help as a “disease preventative measure” for white families —Skeeter’s big-haired "frenemy" has no idea how misguided or bigoted she truly is.
Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of filmmaker Ron Howard and most recently seen in Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, takes Hilly over the edge in some of the film’s most hilarious (and heartbreaking) scenes and says she greatly relished playing the part.
“I was on my way to the audition,” Howard remembers, “and was talking to [my mom] on the phone. And she said, ‘What are you auditioning for?’ And I said, ‘The Help.’ And she had just read it with her book group. And she said, ‘What character?’ And I said, ‘Hilly.’ And without missing a beat she said, ‘Oh you’ll be perfect.’"
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