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|Index||401 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Help" is ostensibly about "Skeeter" (Emma Stone, pretty, but
ineffectual) a privileged, college-educated white woman in the 1960s of
the American South, who decides to collect the stories of the black
maids who have worked for the families of those she knows well... just
as the civil rights movement is about to explode.
This premise intrigues. The problem is that the focus is spread thin. There are many story lines to follow: Skeeter is the only woman in her group that isn't married, so we must keep up with her courtship with the troublesome (at first) Stuart (Chris Lowell), who is foisted upon her by her well-meaning gal pals; Charlotte (a perfect Allison Janney), Skeeter's mother, has cancer and vacillates between being sick and well; she also was responsible for firing Constantine (Cicely Tyson, who looks ancient), although we don't know that at first, so the movie "hints" at some kind of "drama" that we must wait to find out about; then there are the stories of all Skeeter's gal pals, their husbands, kids, and maids... I mean, I was exhausted trying to keep up with all of it... it was, in fact, a soap opera.
Where do our loyalties lie in this movie? We often hear the voice-over of Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), and, indeed, she is the first maid that Skeeter approaches, but she is not the star of the film and the story is not told only through her eyes. Skeeter is supposedly the "writer" in this story, and she does manage to convince a New York publisher, Miss Stein (a brilliant Mary Steenburgen in several brief scenes) that she has a story to tell... but the fact is, it is not her story. All she has done is essentially transcribe what the maids have told her. How this qualifies her to go off at the end to NYC to pursue a career as a writer escapes me. Prior to this, she stumbled into a position at the local paper covering a housekeeping how-to column, and the way she got the tips for that was by interviewing the maids! So, I'm sure she could put together a sentence, but the fact that she essentially was a transcriber does not make her a "writer." She does, thank God, divide up the royalties she gets from the book between herself and the maids that told her the stories, but, again, I don't get how she is anything more than a typist.
And then we have to endure this incredibly contrived scene where Skeeter, despite her offer to go to NY to pursue her dream of being a writer, tells Minny and Aibileen that she isn't going to go, because she has to stay there to "be with them" considering all the "trouble" she's created. Give me a break--like what would she do? Shelter them in a basement?
And then, at the end, as Aibileen walks away from her last job and reflects on her life and how she always thought there would be a writer in her family--her son (who was murdered), states in her final VO that in fact SHE was the writer... and that is by virtue of the fact that she "wrote down" her stories that she ended up telling to Skeeter. If Skeeter had really wanted to "help" them, she would have submitted Aibileen's stories to Ms. Stein instead of "copying" them. Honestly, what did Skeeter write? Nothing original as far as I could tell.
The most interesting storyline of the film, to me, was between Minny and Celia (a perfect Jessica Chastain), the white trash girl who married good. The scenes between them were touching and earnest and heartfelt. Race lines were crossed; it was really the story about two women helping each other through difficult moments. I could have watched an entire film just about the two of them.
Another revelation is Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly Holbrook, who is obviously the Queen Bee of Skeeter's gal pal group. She is convincingly racist, cruel, elitist, snobbish and completely self-centered. It was a pitch perfect performance, as was Sissy Spacek's as her mother, who has a touch of Alzheimer's, but not enough to keep her from putting Hilly in her place. A special mention must be given to Leslie Jordan who plays Skeeter's irritable boss Mr. Blackly. It's quite clear that he can deliver a punchline with the best of them; he got me howling in short order with his eye- rolling, sarcastic blasts, not to mention his amazing somersaults later on in the film (a completely unexpected scene).
Still, the film belongs to Octavia Spencer. She was hysterically funny (effortlessly), could go from dramatic to sad to desperate to joyful--hell, she could just about summon up any emotion asked for her at a moment's notice. In reading the script, I could see that she took some lines that could have been delivered flatly by other actresses and gave them a life that I can't imagine that even the screenwriter had thought of. I really hope that she will not get the "Oscar curse" and will be rewarded with challenging roles that will take advantage of her gifts. I will gladly follow her career.
The film begins with Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) giving a brief
insight into the lives herself and her community who work, for the most
part, as domestic staff for the white elite of Jackson, Mississippi.
How she's spent most of her life raising white children and how she'd
recently lost her own son. And Minnie, her friend, (played by Octavia
Spencer) loses her job due to an inability to abide by unjust rules and
hold her tongue as she's expected to.
Meanwhile, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (played by Emma Stone) has returned home from college with a degree and plans to use it. An idea that is lost on her friends and family who saw college as a means to an end in their quest for suitable husbands who could support them and their future children in the manner they've become accustomed to thanks to their upbringing. And while Skeeter(Stone) finds a job writing a column about cooking and other matters she has little to no expertise on and a valuable resource for the column in Aibileen (Davis), she soon finds her real passion in chronicling the life, times, and injustices of African American domestic servants in Jackson.
I've heard the criticisms leveled on this film and, in all honesty, they're not wrong. It's depiction of racism is, for the most part watered down or rose-colored. And the film's main antagonist is a twitchy social butterfly whose only real power is her standing. That might make sense if her near-senile mother weren't heckling her in the background during those important social events. It is funny, the characters that are the actual focus of the film are endearing and the conclusion is satisfying enough without being too far-fetched to be believable.
This film is not a masterpiece by any means. The characters are very
poorly constructed and there are clear antagonists and protagonists
which follow all the clichés of Hollywood canned products. However, I
still though it was a good film, since:
1 - Emma Stone is hot. 2 - The acting was very good, despite the poorly constructed characters. 3 - I find racism a very interesting subject.
The United States is a country which had a very interesting cultural phenomena: systematic racism between ethic groups. And I like movies that portray this phenomena, such as this one. Even though from a technical point of view, I should have given this film a 4/10 or 5/10, since it is really mediocre and I wouldn't recommend it for someone who harbors no interest in racism.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The society we live in has a deep impact on what we wear, how we think,
where we go etc. The moment your thoughts or behavior begins to veer
away from the society's, you get the evil eyes, the dirty looks and the
stinging scoffs and only with determination and perseverance can you
change the viewpoint of the people around you. In The Help, Charlotte
played by Allison Janney regrets firing her maid Constantine under
pressure from the society. An incident parallel to this happens towards
the end of the film with Aibileen, Hilly and Elizabeth, with Elizabeth
reminding us of Charlotte, Aibileen reminding us of Constantine and
Hilly of that supercilious lady who pressurized Charlotte to fire her
maid. Hilly however is very young unlike that lady, but her influence
is equally powerful over the society.
The outcome of the two events is different: in the first case, the bad lady wins outrightly, but in the second case, it isn't Hilly's win but Aibileen's. What's also interesting here is the effect of the two incidents on the babies while in the first case, a rebellious Eugenia supports the help unflaggingly when she grows up, we are not sure what little Mae will do once she grows up. But we hope for the positive, especially with the civil rights movement underway. In this sense, the dominant yellow in the poster of 'The Help' signifies hope, and the universal presence of women in the film indicates the impact of women, who are closest to the help, in bringing a change.
The Help is pretty homebound in addressing racism as it tells about an aspiring author's efforts in writing a book about the living conditions and experiences of the African American maids of the South from their point of view. She begins her work by interviewing her close friend's help clandestinely and gradually getting support from the other African- American maids as the Civil Right Movement intensifies. The author- reporter Eugenia Skeeter is played by Emma Stone, while the help is led by Aibileen (played by Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer).
The main problem with 'The Help' is that it does not venture a step further, and the only thing we know about Civil War from the movie is that it was going on and things were bad. The role of men is left out entirely or kept bare minimum, and this may keep away most men from watching the movie. It would certainly have been more interesting if the involvement of men in the issue had been considered to a larger extent. Leaving this out, what I disappointed me was the film's approach towards racism itself. The 'commode' and 'Minny's pie' were two trivial issues that were taken as the main motifs in the film. We have Hilly as the nemesis who screams out 'I AM A RACIST!' and seems like a caricature than an actual character. Does she not have anything to do except thinking about ways and means to demean her help?
Viola Davis' presence uplifts the film from becoming another entertaining middling dramedy but her lifelike approach contradicts the satirical approach by the other actors. The latter is especially visible during the climactic scene between Davis' character Aibileen and Bryce Dallas Howards' Hilly, when Aibileen reproaches Hilly's bitchy, manipulative and racist nature by slandering her as a 'godless woman'; as Hilly is more like a caricature of a petulant racist mean girl, the weight of those words did not apply much to her. A 'godless woman' would've been more effective had there been more seriousness in the character of Hilly. I remember how the characters in American Beauty successfully evolved from being simple caricatures towards the end, and so find it slightly disappointing that almost everyone apart from Viola Davis remains somewhat gimmicky throughout 'The Help'. She should've gotten a suitable script that did justice to the humanity she brings to her role.
It was majorly because of Davis that many audiences and critics failed to notice the schmaltz and maudlin in parts of the script and this irks me because another film 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' was lambasted by critics for its sentimentality even though it, to me, did adequate justice (at least in Hollywood sense) to the subject. It also surprises me that she was nominated for Best Actress when her role was supportive, and she would've had far better chances of winning had she been nominated for the appropriate category. Octavia Spencer was wickedly funny as the sassy Minny, but she was selling her punch-lines like the comedian Octavia (she's done a lot of comedy, including in a Disney Show) instead of a sassy Minny speaking the dialogs, so it was more of a show rather than an act. Chastain as Celia Foote reminded me of a ditsy Marilyn Monroe, especially during the party scene but it was silly to nominate her for this movie instead of 'Tree of Life'.
The Help is a very watchable film, but falls short of effectively depicting the situation of African Americans in the South during the 50s in the time of Civil war; it does however manage to convey the influence of society on individuals. More importantly, we see how writing and speech helped in giving voice to the African Americans.
My Rating: 6.3 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I enjoyed the movie because it followed a logical sequence that captured the genuine vernacular of the period. The attitudes of the characters in the movie are not fictitious; they represent the real attitudes of an oppressing group. The condescending stereotypes and attitudes did not die with the end of the era, some of the accompanying lifestyles did. Some of the families who employed house cleaners and other domestic help were not rich or even middle class people. They under paid their help with sub-minimum wages and expected much more return than investment. They enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle at the expense of the black domestic workers who served for little pay. The most important aspect of "The Help" is the moral implications of how domestic workers affected the lives of the children they raised, befriended, and loved. Despite the mistreatment they often endured, many of the workers attached themselves emotionally and the families rarely reciprocated. Some of the young children identified with the domestic service providers more than they could relate to their own biological parents. The maids often instilled a strong sense of self-esteem and a proud, but healthy, confidence into the children they raised for white people while they struggled to do the same at home. The dichotomy between their surrogate roles within white homes and their reality often produced major psychological torture and emotional turmoil. The same superior attitude that demands special privilege and entitlement prevails today, but the issue is no longer just black and white nor is it confined to the South. "The Help" dares to scratch the surface that illustrates a mild realization of the actual degradation imposed upon an innocent cross section of American society. I highly recommend this movie to every American who likes history, especially in light of our society's preoccupation and fascination with many aspects of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. This movie will serve as moral tonic and a dose of reality for families and school aged children old enough to understand.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Last week we watched a film which was absolutely amazing and made a
great contribution to our general knowledge. We can mention some data:
Title: The Help Genre: Drama Author: Tate Taylor; kathryn Stockett
Director: Tate Taylor Actors: Emma Stone, Viola Davies, Octavia Spencer
Characters: Skeeter, Aibileen, Minnie Plot: During the Civil Rights
Movement in the 1960's, Skeeter decided to write a book detailing the
African American maids' point of view on the white families for which
they worked. The most important thing was the hardships they go through
every day. Aibileen and Minnie were brave enough and they could
demonstrate how they were treated by the white people. They made a big
change. Reflection: Through the film and the text we read, we learned
how black people were treated in 1960's. Racism and discrimination were
the most important themes of that period. The film showed us that if
you really want something, you have to fight for it no matter the
consequences. It also taught us to love our enemy, not to fight with
violence. The best way to overcome any problems is praying for them.
White and Black people are the same, because we were created by God
with the same dignity. For that reason, we have to love and respect
each other. This film is worth seeing because we can learn many values.
(This review is published with permission from my students' parents as the result of classwork done with this movie's plot and messages. Authors: Sofia Casanova and Rosario Ocaranza, 17 years old - Teacher: Paula Bello. School: FASTA Angel Maria Boisdron OP, Tucuman, Argentina)
I just finished watching this movie - - - I usually do not watch this kind of films. I saw trailers and all I can say is - - - - Exceptional film making.
Casting was perfect, Emma Stone delivers. It was pure pleasure to watch her in this movie. Not to mention all the other of the cast.
The characters were well written, and you really feel for them. Script itself was also very good. The whole movie shows a glimpse in to the world we regular mortals do not know.
I recommend this movie to everyone who like this genre - - - or not. In any case it is well made for people of all tastes - - - - One more thing about Emma Stone - - -
I think that she is underrated actress, and she showed here, that she is mature enough to deliver in tough roles. I am looking forward seeing her future projects. There are too many so called actors who really suck royally - - - One example was that expressionless Kristen Stewart . . .
All in all I give it 10 / 10
It is very rare that I come across a movie that I cannot stop thinking about afterwards; and it is very rare that something that received industry awards was not some pretentious nonsense. However, this movie is actually fantastic. It made me laugh, it made me cry and it made me shake my head in disgust that human beings were ever treated in this manner. The film had a strong political and social message throughout without actually making it intrusive. Instead, the excellent characterisation engages to the extent that you almost miss them when the end credits finish. You care what happens to these women. This shows racism for exactly what it is: completely ridiculous, cruel and disgusting. If you cannot see humanity in others, you lack it in yourself. I would recommend this movie as a must see.
Very well made with a nicely paced plot that always keeps the audience
interested. Some great performances also add to the enjoyment; Emma
Stone played the inquisitive graduate, Skeeter Phelan with great
assurance. Viola Davis as the central character Aibileen Clark was
really excellent, as was Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson. Bryce Dallas
Howard was also first-rate as the main villain of the piece, Hilly
Holbrook. I also thought that Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote did an
A film that has a real feel-good factor, it very much concentrates its focus on things from the perspective of the women, on both sides of the story, but in particular the maids. I found there were some very touching moments along with quite a lot of humour. It's set at a time and place where a lot of things were changing very rapidly, particularly in the aspect of race relations and you can see a lot of ignorance and bigotry. I should point out that not all the employers are bad; there are one or two stories that relate how the maids were cared for very well. Over all, I found this film quite uplifting; one I'd happily watch again at some point.
SteelMonster's verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
My Score 8.7/10
IMDb Score: 8.1/10 (based on 98,862 votes at the time of going to press).
MetaScore: 62/100: (Based on 41 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes 'Tomatometer' Score: 76/100 (based on 197 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes 'Audience' Score: 90/100 'Liked It' (based on 67,805 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
You can find an expanded version of this review on my blog: Thoughts of a SteelMonster.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I thoroughly enjoyed watching 'The Help' as films on historical data
has always been of interest to me. What I find frightening is how this
appears 'new' to most people, the treatment of house servants during
those days when in reality people chose to ignore the issue. Bringing
light to it now doesn't justify the actions by these so-called
prominent families. What I find most disturbing were some references
that their maids were considered like members of the family. Sadly this
just isn't so. A member of the family would sit at the dining room
table with the family sharing a meal. You would go visit a family
members home. You would shop in public with a member of the family. A
member of the family would be introduced as a 'relative' and not as
'Minny or Abileen my maid' and told to go fetch Mrs. So and So a glass
of iced tea. No, these women aren't 'like a member of the family'. They
are your employee.
Separate but equal. A phrase that most people in the South considered to be a fair comment. There was nothing equal when it came to race relations in those days.
As for the movie, I like how certain references to events were named such as the assassination of President Kennedy and Medger Evers and what transpired in the town of Jackson during those events. The clothes and styles of that era were remarkable and the acting was on point.
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