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Movie Review -- "The Help"

The much awaited movie version of the best-seller "The Help" opened this week and I was so excited -- and apprehensive -- to see it.
I loved the book and could not wait to see these characters spring to life. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and was among the millions who felt that the movie was a major cinematic failure.
While I don't put "The Help" into that category, I have to say that I was a little disappointed in this film. While the story is strong, I could not help but wonder if people who did not read the book will get as much out of it. The book is told by the three main characters -- Skeeter, a recent college graduate who aspires to be a writer and two maids -- Abeleen and Minnie. The movie does not have a lot of narration and I feel that was a mistake. In my humble opinion, too much back story is lost. I understand that it would be impossible to make the entire book into a movie, but I feel that too much was eliminated that really fleshed out the characters on the page. This could have been accomplished by a bit more narration.
I do think that the people portraying all the characters did them justice. The costumes and homes were great. We were transported back to Mississippi circa 1963.
My issues: The movie does not explain why Constantine's leaving was such a big secret and why her daughter's appearance is such a big deal. That is such a driving force for Skeeter to find out in the novel and in the film it is barely a ripple in the story. I understand that the story of Celia and Johnny Foote had to be compressed but the movie is poorer for it. I also think that the audience may be left wondering why Hilly Holbrook had so much influence over her friends (actually, that is not really clarified in the book) and why Skeeter's boyfriend suddenly leaves when he finds out she is the mysterious author. On a culinary note of sorts, the secret of what Minnie with the pie did had a much bigger build-up in the novel. It was funny in the film, but had more suspense in the book.
I could be wrong -- I never read "Gone with the Wind" and I understand that much was left out of the movie. Perhaps I was looking for things "The Help" eliminated when it made the leap from page to screen and that is why I feel so much could have been added.
I would like very much to hear from people who saw the movie before reading the book and get their opinions. Post us a comment and let me know what you thought.
And by the way -- read the book. It is amazing.

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