An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends' lives -- and a Mississippi town -- upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Aibileen (Davis), Skeeter's best friend's housekeeper, is the first to open up -- to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter's life-long friendships hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their stories -- and as it turns out, they have a lot to say. Along the way, unlikely friendships are forged and a new sisterhood emerges, but not before everyone in town has a thing or two to say themselves when they become unwittingly -- and unwillingly -- caught up in the changing times. Written by
Walt Disney Pictures
When Skeeter is trying on her mother's dress, the sleeves on the dress go from off her shoulders to on her shoulders in between camera shots. See more »
I was born 1911, Chicksaw County, Piedmont Plantation.
And did you know as a girl growing up that one day you'd be a maid?
Yes ma'am, I did.
And you knew that because...
My mama was a maid. My grandmama was a house slave.
[whispering as she writes down]
"house slave..." Did you ever dream of being something else?
What does it feel like to raise a white child when your own child's at home being looked after by somebody else?
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I grew up in the 60's, the setting for The Help, a story of Southern prejudice and cruelty toward African Americans, who were chattel of the Southern rich treating their servants as expendable and marginal. I can say that as a Northerner with a black maid for our household, there was love but always a barrier, a carryover from the strict separation still prevailing after reconstruction.
Director Tate Taylor keeps the race relations taut but not strident, as if we were living through the emerging civil rights movement slowly but inevitably aimed at equality, not "separate but equal." Skeeter (Emma Stone) graduates, returns to Jackson, Miss., and decides to write about the black help, whose "perspective' needs to be told. As more maids join in the writing of the manuscript, the more possible it is to counter the assassination of Medgar Evers and eventually that of Martin Luther King.
While we have grown used to the base scatological humor of the Hangovers, Change-UP, and other rom-coms, the fundament motif in The Help is as low-key as will ever be depicted in film. Not only is the idea of the bad guys "eating st" effective, it is funny and poignant.
A note about the performancesBryce Dallas Howard as the conservative, prejudiced Hilly, is remarkably successful, making her a full-fledged actress and not just a famous director's daughter. Jessica Chastain as the ditzy but big-hearted Celia Foote cements her place as a great modern actress following her memorable role as the compliant wife in Tree of Life. Emma Stone no longer need rely on rom-coms, for she stars in The Help with a performance nuanced and underplayed, just the way I like it, albeit a bit too hip for the times.
Although the film tends toward the simplistic, e.g., there are no bad blacks and most whites are obtuse, Viola Davis as maid Aibileen Clark successfully carries the film displaying the ambivalent nature of slavery ready to burst out of its chains.
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