Celebrated writer Oscar Wilde once quipped that there was “only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” It was an early turn-of-phrase that helped give birth to the concept that there’s no such animal as bad publicity. Certainly The Help, whose writer and producers appear to be laughing all the way to the bank after being dogged by a series of legal (Ablene Cooper, who has worked for the author’s brother, claims a character in the book, Aibileen, is based on her likeness) and social controversies, falls into this category.
History, however, suggests that while negative press may box office catnip, it can be arsenic for earning industry accolades. The roman-a-clef has thrived through word of mouth, with its Oscar buzz quickly growing into a deafening roar.
Irrespective of the endless flare-ups surrounding the book, The Help has a compelling and historically resonant storyline, brilliantly brought to life through first-rate acting. Sadly, those factors may be lost on the various award selection committees, which tend to snub movies that end up on court dockets.