Since The Help is opening today, and Lords knows we have had more than our fair share of heated discussion about that damn movie, I thought it would be the perfect time to deal with another film which came out 20 years ago in 1991 that was thematically the same, but much different.
I’m referring to The Long Walk Home directed by Richard Pearce and starring Whoopi Goldberg and Sissy Spacek. It’s pretty much totally forgotten today, not surprisingly, since the film was mainly overlooked when it first came out. But I dare say, without even seeing The Help, it’s pretty clear that Home is lot tougher and more honest film. (Trivia note: Octavia Spencer’s first experience on a film set was working as a production assistant on Home).
The film is set in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, during the bus boycott, with Goldberg playing a housekeeper to Spacek’s family. In complete solidarity with the boycott, Goldberg refuses to ride the buses and makes the long grueling trek to work every day. Spacek, in growing sympathy and admiration with Goldberg for standing up for what she knows is right, soon offers to drive her to and from her house every day. However her actions eventually incurs the anger of Spacek’s racist husband who enlists the help of the White Citizens Council to put an end to the protest and split the developing bond between Goldberg and Spacek.
As you can tell from trailer, it’s a pretty intense film at times, and it may be too earnest for its own good; but it’s a finely acted film and one that also firmly makes a connection between the Civil Rights movement and the beginning of the women’s movement, as Spacek begins to find her spine and come out of her protective “good wife” shell. But the film has pretty much faded from memory. I couldn’t even find one decent still from the film, though it is available very cheaply on DVD from Amazon.
But it’s worth checking out especially if you’re planning to see The Help, to compare the two.