Stories and Songs from The Help

Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel, The Help, movingly portrayed the stories of African-American maids in 1960s-era Jackson, Miss., through the perspectives of three different female protagonists. It’s since been turned into a pleasing, feature-length motion picture (opening August 10th) filled with strikingly good performances. Emma Stone (Easy A, Crazy, Stupid, Love), Viola Davis (Doubt, Eat Pray Love) and Octavia Spencer (Seven Pounds, Flypaper) are the leads and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see any one of them get award nominations. Add in some great turns from fellow actresses Allison Janney (The West Wing, Juno) and Bryce Dallas Howard (Eclipse, Spider-Man 3) and you have a formidable film that’s as enjoyable to watch as it is great counter-programming to yet another summer filled with superhero and kid-oriented blockbusters.

The film's soundtrack (in our coffeehouses now) is just as enticing and features an eclectic array of music from the period. It includes Johnny Cash and June Carter’s ode to “Jackson,” references gospel roots with Ray Charles’s "Hallelujah I Love Her So” and Mavis Staples’s “Don’t Knock,” and soulfully sallies forth into offerings from Bo Diddley, Lloyd Price and Chubby Checker.

I was especially (and pleasantly) surprised by the inclusion of obscure gems from Webb Pierce and Dorothy Norwood. They are perfectly chosen and offset well by better known fare like Bob Dylan’s seminal “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” All this is topped off with a new Mary J. Blige composition, “The Living Proof,” which plays at the end of the movie. It’s refreshing to see that the music was put together as lovingly as one of our own handcrafted compilations, with inspiration and a vision as evocative as the book and the film.

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