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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'The Help' is a well-meaning attempt to educate the film going public
about the civil rights era in the deep South through the perspective of
the relationship between black maids and their white female employers.
Author Kathryn Stockett, who wrote the book on which the film is based,
does well in reminding us that the black 'help' not only had to endure
the threat of violence as a result of the encroaching backlash from
white racists upset over a new black militancy in southern communities,
but also had to deal with a multiplicity of indignities on the drab
domestic front, including being forced to use separate bathrooms in the
homes of their white female employers. Not only does Hilly Holbrook
(the film's principal 'villain') enforce this rule in her own home and
influences her immediate neighbors to follow suit, but lobbies local
politicians in order to have her racist initiative be codified into
While Hilly may be a tad bit melodramatic as Stockett's 'Cruella de Vil', she is undoubtedly the most compelling character in the entire film. Stockett also does well with Elizabeth Leefolt, Aibileen's racist employer, who is perhaps more repulsive than Hilly, in that she does not have the self-awareness to realize that she is an incompetent mother. Occasionally, Stockett even suggests that some of oppressed maids may not have all their moral compasses in order. In perhaps one of the most interesting scenes in the film (due to the ambiguity), one of the maids is roughly pulled off a bus and arrested by seemingly racist, redneck policeman. I could hear the indignant sounds of the audience suddenly go quiet, when it's revealed that the maid arrested was the one who pilfered a diamond ring that had fallen behind a cabinet in the home of one of the white employers.
Despite Stockett's noble attempt to relate the atmosphere of institutional racism so prevalent in the south during early 1960s, her main character, Skeeter, feels wholly anachronistic. It's as if Stockett projected her own modern day sensibility on to Skeeter and asks us to believe that such a character would have existed at that time. If there were progressive minded white liberals participating in the civil rights movement in the early 60s, usually they came from the north and were often met with outright violence. To have such a progressive minded white female from the south take up the cause of the oppressed black 'help', let alone create a book based on interviews with such women, is simply wish fulfillment on the part of the author. Stockett is obviously trying to mitigate some of her own guilt by creating the illusory, "feel-good" character of Skeeter. No book like "The Help" ever appeared in the early 60s and it would have never been published at that time.
There's another reason why 'The Help' makes little sense. Why would "The Help" ever agree to Skeeter's plan? They certainly receive little financial compensation for their efforts and in the end, they're only setting themselves up for retaliation. A character in a book might take some satisfaction in mouthing off against an employer who subjects them to racist humiliation, but in the real world (and especially in the 60s deep South), one doesn't 'talk back', unless one wants to lose their sole source of support. Of course there were individual black women who worked as maids who could have 'talked back' and lost their jobs, but to suggest such a large group of women agreed to interviews en masse, is another one of Stockett's 'feel-good' conceits!
While all those juicy interviews Stockett collected from the 'Help' may have worked in the book, the stories come off as dry recitations in the film. We don't actually experience the maids' stories visuallythey are merely communicated to Skeeter during the interviews. Obviously, flashbacks wouldn't have worked during the interview scenes since there were too many of them. Stockett's other big problem with the 'Help' is that she's forced to place her main 'Help' characters on a pedestal. Yes Aibileen and Minny ARE victims but can they do no wrong? It may have been a more interesting story if "The Help" were REALLY told from their perspective. Stockett unfortunately is unable to make the Help's world come alivedo they actually have a back story? (the best we get is an allusion to Minny's "abusive" husband who never appears on screen). Or is everything defined by their relationship to the white world?
Stockett resorts to melodramatic form, by offering up storytelling akin to a decidedly unsubtle 'quid pro quo.' You have your evil Hilly and then you need to counter it with the ditsy but kind Cecelia Foote, another unbelievable character designed to prove that whites weren't all that bad during the era. Even Charlotte, Skeeter's mother, must be subject to Stockett's quid pro quo treatment (Charlotte channels Hilly when she banishes beloved family maid Constantin in order to appease her racist club members but then sticks up for Skeeter when Hilly tries to blackmail her daughter).
Worst of all are Stockett's male characters who are practically non-existent in the film. I didn't buy for one second that Skeeter would have actually been attracted to the boyfriend and gone out with him for a time. Wouldn't she have clarified from the beginning that he was a racist and had nothing to do with him?
For those who are interested in getting a better picture of black life during the civil rights era, can I recommend the classic 1964 picture, 'Nothing But a Man'? 'The Help' only seems to suggest that white people deserve more credit than they really should receive for aiding black people in their quest for social equality and justice.
I saw a preview of this film a few weeks ago in Philadelphia. I am huge
fan of the book and could not wait to see the movie. I was not
disappointed. I LOVED this movie. I have not seen anything more moving
or more real in such a long time.
The movie stays very close to the book. The book has a bit more details, but all the parts of the book that make it so great were in the movie. There was not a thing missed in the screenplay.
The characters come alive on the screen. There is no stretch of imagination. The casting is perfect.
Go see this, you will not be disappointed!
This film uses every cliché in the book starting with the liberal minded white person who is the voice of conscience and the long suffering good hearted but somewhat simplistic black people.This film is emotionally manipulative and panders to a sentimental reduction of complex history. Its moves were predictable and uses every trick in the book, even the scene in the church is cliché. Both the white and the black characters are mostly reductive caricatures out of some story book world which doesn't do justice to the historical complexity of such situations. Why would you want to make a saccharine comic book out of profound historical situations-- other than to pander to audiences longing for a feel good experience for the sake of box office. I actually don't mean to disrespect to people who like it, and I don't want to attack the actors. They didn't write the film, but at the same time, I can't believe that so many people fell for this bag of tricks. Still, a bigger problem and disservice a movie like this does to our culture is that such bad history and simplistic human portrayals turns race dynamics into good guy bad guy stories which we can watch with a complacent feeling of how much better we are than those bad old days. Such complacency leads to a historical ignorance that retards honest critique and real progress. This movie would be better if it just didn't pretend to be about something. Let it be some sappy comic book. That wouldn't be the worse thing in the world. At least it would be more honest.
This movie wasn't badly made, it's just bad that it was made. In it every character is a cliché cartoon in support of a fictional rose coloured glasses version of 60's America, where almost every white person is a villain and every black person loves fried chicken. If this is how America learns its history (and judging by the reviews where many have viewed this film as having a positive and accurate message of hope and struggle????), then no wonder the western world is in trouble. Is it worse that a story about the struggle of black people to overcome oppression in racist 60s America is centered on a privileged white woman on the road to New York success? Marginalized yet again it seems. This movie started out as passable entertainment but by the time it crossed the finished line it had stepped full force into misguided and offensive. And shockingly many people seem to not know the difference.
This is like one of those afternoon made for TV "life affirming" dramas. Full of sugar, whimsy and wholesomeness but totally lacking in truth and bite. Ugh! The performances are almost uniformly two dimensional - even Allison Janney opted for cartoon like characterisation. The period detail is sometimes accurate but occasionally glaringly inaccurate. For example no girl in the early 60s would have worn her hair in Emma Stone's hopelessly anachronistic style. I blame Tate Taylor who was credited with the screenplay and direction. Apparently Taylor was born in Jackson and is a close friend of Kathryn Stockett. Can this really be how Ms Stockett wished her novel to be brought to the screen? But there again I haven't read the novel. Could it be full of the same yukky apple pie philosophy?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For people who've never seen a movie depicting the civil rights
movement, this would not be a good place to start. If you watched it
and found it 'entertaining', then shame on you. Making up a story about
this time to entertain and manipulate for profit is pretty despicable
in my view, and I'm afraid I'm incredibly disappointed that this film
seems to be getting positive reviews on here.
If you lack education and a general sense of right and wrong - this is the film for you. There are so many important great works in film and in literature on the era and topic. How did this get made? It's also racist in and of itself in its depiction of black people and the white people are so disgusting and caricatures of evil. It's entertaining only if you are almost completely ignorant of that period of time - for the rest of us it's just offensive. It's also got that well worn trope of the black women helping a white woman to succeed / act as an apologist for (here's the spoiler) her taking off to NY in her big successful career while one happily continues to be beaten by her husband and the other loses her job.
100 thumbs down.
P.S. I'm not alone: "The Association of Black Women Historians finds it unacceptable for either this book or this film to strip black women's lives of historical accuracy for the sake of entertainment." Yes!
Well, I grew up during this period in the south and we always had a
black maid. We loved our black maid Veronica (first black person I'd
ever seen and I thought she was made of my favorite stuff --
chocolate), and our family corresponded with her (and sent her money)
for years after we moved. Other families had black maids and no one
ever, ever, ever, ever, ever talked about them or treated them the way
they are in this film (haven't read the book) but instead with value
and respect, though within the confines of the segregationist times.
That whole bathroom issue --silly, never happened that I witnessed or
Don't get me wrong: It was certainly a period and relationship worth examination from our more modern era. I can recall at one point going out to visit our maid who was sick. She lived on a piece of farmland -- had all these children, our counterpart, and we played together while parents visited, though I was aware that it was like looking in a mirror, dark on other side.
And one can bemoan the disparity of the period (but we still have it though) and still-rampart racism back then that was just taken for granted by everyone. But, no, ma'am, nothing about this movie rang true beyond the fact that the maids were always black, generally poorer, and, yes, helped raise white babies (sang to them, fed them, fussed at them, did their -- my -- hair). Maybe there was just some peculiar cesspool in Jackson, but if anyone had acted like the villain did where we lived, she'd probably be sent for mental treatment (actually not, but everyone would know she was insane).
And by the way, no one back then said "Damn" in front of a woman (opening scene), "Jesus" as a cuss-word (opening scene), and heaven forbid "Sh-t" (many times) which I never once heard in my life until college.
In summary, this movie struck me as a bit of a cartoon. Plunked down in a real period lifestyle are cartoonish villains as well as cartoonish heroines. Guess you needed to put in such stuff for Hollywood. Or maybe the writer added it to finally get sold. Too bad.
The question that kept irking at me while watching this in the year
2011? This reminds me of one of those old blaxploitation films gone
"chick" flick, or maybe a second rate version of "Steel Magnolias" with
a Jim Crow law plot thrown in. The main problem I have with "The Help"
is that it lacks the courage it needs to tackle these race relation
The movie actually starts off well and sets to be a tragic telling with some historical value. However in trying to appeal to everyone it randomly ends up just falling into 30 minutes of comedic jesting out of nowhere and then manipulative "tear-jerking" scenes just for the sake of them. In all this desperation to try to appeal to anyone the story ends up being useless drivel and all the characters fall into stereotypical categories. The movie's one saving grace is that each of the actors in this show exemplary ability. Too bad it was all just to turn into Hollywood nonsense.
"The Help" is based off a book, which was written by a White lady, through the point-of-view of a Black maid. Ignore all of the novel writer Kathryn Stockett's, high school creative classroom flaws, just admire the nostalgia of the days of the segregated South. If the writing didn't have you rolling your eyes from all of these ridiculously naive concepts and glibness, just know that racial problems can always be solved with fried chicken "The Help" may actually seem decent to some of the popcorn flick goers who are easily manipulated. Don't be fooled, by the making light of a serious historical dilemma and trying to instead romanticize the time. Don't accept the malarkey marketing trying to pass this off as uplifting. What we need is a real movie thought over and that offers women empowerment, all this movie is sadly, is a crock. 3/10
After reading the book, I was anxious to see how well the actresses matched the characters. I absolutely LOVED Emma and Viola. They made the movie realistic and followed the characters from the book exactly. I don't think many actresses could have pulled it off. Also, it was a relief to see that Hilly was a lot less intimidating in the movie than in the book. What I like most about The Help is that it wouldn't be a huge deal to not have read the book; the movie would suffice (creating the same emotions in both film and book). Two side notes: (1) even after seeing the movie, read the end of the book regarding the author. (2) Emma is awesome--would love to work with her!
This movie is a gem among a field of roses that the last year has given
us. There have been tons of great movies in the last few seasons,
however, this movie has created its own ranks. Beyond the shadow of a
doubt, The Help entices every second eyes hit the screen.
Having not read the book, and knowing just how often that I can honestly say that the books are way better than the film, I cannot see how the book could be better! If it is, then I have gotta say, best book ever written.
I was crying, laughing, getting angry, clapping, and every good thing you could evoke into an audience at a movie theater. If I wasn't so shy, I would have given a standing applaud at the end of the movie.
I recommend this to anyone and everyone, it will not disappoint.
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