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I had eagerly awaited the movie as the book was an absolute
masterpiece. I was rather disappointed.
My guess is that people who have not read the book will like the movie. It is well acted and makes for a good story -- just a different one from the story written in the book.
One semi major character is changed from a very complicated person -- sympathetic but hardly enlightened or heroic -- to something entirely different -- a converted true believer. Other characters simply become flatter and more "stock" than in the book -- though that may be inevitable when adapting a novel written in three first person voices into a movie.
The main problem with the movie is that it really does not attempt to capture the violence, brutality and fear of the period. In the book these things hang over the characters and there is a real sense of danger. In the movie "danger" is spoken of but hardly palpable. Segregationists (aside from the one villain, Hilly) appear more rude than brutal. As a (white) southern man who lived in that era I know it was a lot tougher than that.
Overall, it is a good movie. If the source material did not exist I'd rate it higher. But being adapted from a much more nuanced and stronger work, it suffers in comparison.
See it. But read the book. And especially take young people to see it who may not be willing to read the book first. Because even glossed over, it does show a side of American history that the younger generation may not fully appreciate. Maybe it will spark discussion and maybe some of them will read the book for a fuller understanding of how things used to be.
My wife had recently read the source novel and was most keen to see
this movie adaptation, plus I have a keen interest in the US Civil
Rights movement and was likewise keen to see it. Perhaps it helps to be
an American to appreciate some of the nuances a bit better, but I
basically found this a sentimentalised and overly patronising story,
with as much resonance as an episode of "The Waltons" or "Little House
On The Prairie". The basic idea of the young college girl writing up
her town-life experience and causing controversy as she does so was
used before in "Peyton Place", that historical but much decorated
cinematic piece of soap opera, which for me is about the level the film
In addition, one of the major plot-lines (regarding the shall I say, tainted "gift" of a pie) was immediately apparent to me because of a similar scene I recalled from the seminal 70's TV series "Roots", which dealt with the big issue here more exhaustively and realistically. There are lots of episodic scenes demonstrating the ebb and flow of "the help's" struggle for acceptance, with some drop-in insertions to the narrative from real-time, real-life events such as the murder of Medgar Evers, but I felt the direction catered to the cosy and felt little real drama throughout.
Similarly I felt the acting to be showy and shallow by pretty much everyone in the cast, indeed no-one came across as real and I failed to engage with the characters. The depiction of time and place is excellent but students of this era looking for insight and emotional connection with this shaming episode of modern American history should buy or rent out "Roots" instead. Oh and make sure you get out of your seat quickly at the end to avoid the overblown Mary J Blige power-ballad over the end-titles which only adds to the disconnect here.
"You is kind. You is smart. You is important" is the mantra that "You
is kind. You is smart. You is important" is the mantra that Abileen
Clark (Viola Davis), a domestic worker in Jackson, Mississippi in the
1960ies, uses to comfort and empower her employer's daughter. Neglected
by a mother who finds her too chubby and cumbersome, and a constantly
absent father, Abileen is the only caring adult in the girl's life, the
one who's there for her through real and metaphorical storms.
Based on the bestseller by the same name written by Kathryn Stocket in 2009, the movie version of The Help, directed by Tate Taylor, tells the story of the young aspiring writer Eugenia (nicknamed Skeeter and played by Emma Stone). Skeeter is different from Elizabeth (Ahna O'Reilly), Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her other friends who spend their time playing bridge, organising charity events and being snooty. Instead of trying to find a husband, Skeeter's focusing on her career. She also believes that black domestic workers shouldn't be treated as subhumans; a radical view stemming from her relationship with her old nanny Constantine (Cicely Tyson), who raised Skeeter before disappearing without a trace.
After landing a job answering housekeeping questions for a newspaper column, Skeeter, who knows nothing about housework, asks Elizabeth to let her domestic worker Abileen help her. After a short time in Abileen's company, Skeeter realises that life as a black domestic worker isn't all rosy, and the idea is born to collect the stories of all the invisible hardworking black women surrounding her and her friends and write a book. Initially reluctant Abileen eventually succumbs and convinces her friend Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), an outspoken lady who has just been fired by Hilly to help Skeeter realize her dream. As the film progresses the audience is treated to various displays of racist stuck up behaviour, bad parenting, loyalty and silent resistance. "This isn't about me. It doesn't matter what I feel", Skeeter promises early in the film which turns out to be mainly about her, Elizabeth, Hilly and the ostracized housewife Celia (Jessica Chastain).
As New York Press' reviewer Armond White points out the main aim of the film is to entertain, which might explain the lack of engagement with the subject matter at a level that considers the changes that have influenced discussions about race, gender and power in America since the sixties. The approach makes for a dated film that requires the audience to ignore the most important change; that black American women no longer rely on white spokespersons to voice their concerns. Abileen's, Minny's and Constantin's primary function in The Help, a film that does little to challenge traditional racial power dynamics, and translates black agency into steeling and black pride into frying chicken, is simply to help us distinguish good whites from bad, coward and victim whites. The Help is a film that suffers badly from a shallow treatment of a complex subject matter and blatant slapsticky stereotyping (incl. Minny delivering one Chappellesque line about chicken after the other, among them "Frying chicken just makes me feel better about life. I just love me some fried chicken").
The ethos of the film is that of Skeeter; quite radical in the 1960s, less so in 2011. Black underprivileged women playing second fiddle to their white counterparts isn't the problem. It's just a pity that the white women, having forgotten how much they loved their black nannies as children, let the black help raise their children but not use their bathrooms. For someone in tune with this ethos it makes sense that Skeeter is the one who contributes with ambition and skills, and her informants (even if they, like Abileen, also are aspiring writers) with sensational stories about daily humiliation to be turned into literature by Skeeter. To assume, as Skeeter does when finding out what happened to her nanny, that the old woman, who at least until the day she disappeared had a brave and caring daughter by her side (LaChanze), wouldn't survive another minute without Skeeter isn't outrageous given the logical framework of the film, and similarly there's nothing strange about Skeeter's narcissistic reluctance to leave the thirty something informants in the racist town for an attractive job in New York. A concern that reminds me of a that of the man who approaches a group of girlfriends in a bar, asking them what they're doing there all alone.
Different approaches at different times; that's how to make any story relevant at any time. Nothing illustrates this better than the example of The Stepford Wives, the 1974 novel by Ira Levin which was adapted to the big screen in 1975 and 2004, and to TV in 1980, 1987 and 1996. Also dealing with oppressive and reactionary ideals, each version of the original story reflects the time in which it was made, with hypnosis being the tool of domination in the 1980 version, role reversal in 1996, and a woman being the master brain running the show in the 2004 version in which the women have become sex- and cash machines. In response to Taylor's dealing with The Help, nothing feels more appropriate than to conclude in the same non-innovative and slightly offensive manner that characterizes his take on the story:
You is patronising. You is irrelevant. You is out of touch. (This and other movie reviews to be found on the blog "In the Words of Katarina")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Three very courageous women decide to tell the unique story of what
it's like to be a black female helper taking care of white children set
against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the rampant
bigotry of the time. I thought this film was very moving throughout; a
particular scene that comes to mind is when a helper is betrayed after
a life long service to a family. It's the most powerful scene I saw in
a film in 2011 and my heart just sunk as I watched it.
The performances are solid right across the board. Bryce Dallas Howard is serviceable and Emma Stone shows she can do more than comedy. But this film belongs to the performances of the two helpers; Viola Davis and Octavia Spenser. Viola is clearly a fantastic actress. I liked what she did in Solaris (thought she was underrated), LOVED her brief but very strong role in Doubt and this performance just puts her in the next level of actresses for me. The suffering and heartbreak of this character just emanates from her; her performance makes this film great.
Octavia Spencer (Minny) was a newcomer for me at the time I first saw this and I thought she provided some of the more light hearted parts of the story (which it definitely need). I initially didn't know what to think of this film and was surprised at the buzz it was getting. I expected it to be a bit cheesy. But after seeing it I definitely get it. Like the Blind Side, I think it's really resonating with people. It's clearly not the feel good movie of the year, but it's highly recommended.
Enjoyed my review? Keep in touch!
This movie will hold a special glue to anyone who has been a Gone With The Wind fan , for the rest it just might simulate them to revisit those history lessons . The film is brilliantly cast , there being not a single dull moment. The film revolves around three very different women who form an unlikely friendship in their quest for a common goal. It is much more then just being about the state of events in the 1950s at the South .Its a portrayal of a waning tradition that still grips the peninsula even after a century of the Civil War which was fought to abolish the exact same custom. It raises serious issues - demarcation of people based on skin color , making another human being walk in incessant rain rather than allowing her(it?) to use one's own bathroom , makes us reflect that we still aren't very far along the vicious prejudice. The movie also touches upon how the untarnished mind of a child is capable to love the same person he would grow up to walk all over on, of how society can be a venomous influence in conditioning the brain on so much discrimination. In the end it also hints that even after being subjected to centuries of venom , the heart still has the capability to love, that there is still hope for all of us.
Perfect. A movie about the civil rights movement in the 1960's responds with a light hearted approach to the chaos whilst conjunctively addressing the hardship of 'The Help'. Whilst the in-story author requires help from the help, to right about the Help may seem disorienting, Tate Taylor (Director) does this in a way that no other Director seems to be able to do correctly. Great camera work located at about 30 minutes, where the camera spirals upwards, following Emma Stone up the spiral staircase is a shot that has been remembered by myself and is something I look for within movies today. However, this shot and the shot at the end credits place it comfortably - in my books, as the shot which is on par with final shot from 'The Passenger'. The end credits in particular allow the actors the right of recognition which they all deserve. Keeping to the underlying message right down to the point. A film which is undeniably rare for our time, a perfect 10 out of 10, 5 out of 5, masterpiece.
The book was a fantastic read and I think the movie did a decent job of
bringing it to life. Set in 1960s Mississippi, The Help is about a
white girl, Skeeter Phelan, who collaborates with black maids to tell
their stories of what it's like to work in a white household. They hope
to narrow the racial divide and improve conditions for blacks. Viola
Davis and Octavia Spencer put up excellent performances as the maids,
Aibileen and Minny. As president of the county's Ladies' League and
leader of the racist campaign to build separate toilets for blacks in
every household (not to mention Skeeter's friend), Hilly was also just
as smooth and poisonous as I had imagined her to be. Emma Stone was
alright as Skeeter, but a lot of her inner struggles in the book didn't
really come out, so I found it kind of hard to connect with her.
While I think the movie was pretty good, its inability to make us think about our behaviour in the present-day context stopped it from being great. I also didn't like how some of the characters' reactions to Skeeter writing the book (Stuart and Skeeter's mother) were made more extreme, as it led to an oversimplification of the situation in that era.
The movie is not bad at all, but its way too over-hyped. I guess its
because of the theme. Films with the topic "civil rights" or "second
world war" and others always get a bit better reviews. The film is
touching, but it didn't get me so far, that i would say "wow, that
makes me really cry" What really annoys me about the film is the
Hollywood/American touch of the film. Sorry guys, i have nothing
against America, but its a bit not authentic- and i didn't mean the not
authentic behaviour of Jackson Ville, what the author/director
intended. I mean especially skeeter, who is that innocent and such a
perfect girl, without any appeal of racism or other bad
characteristics. The whole impact she achieves with her book seems to
me quite unauthentic. And for me the facts about the civil war are even
a bit whitewashed or sugar coated. They could even draw more attention
how bad the situation for the black people really was.
What i did like was the combination of martin Luther Kings parts of his speeches and the impact on Jackson ville.
In conclusion i liked the film, but if you want to see a more realistic and for me more touching film about civil rights, than i would rather watch "to kill a mockingbird" from 1962 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056592/?ref_=nv_sr_1
This is a movie about shallow cruel women living in the 1960s in
Mississippi and their black maids. Cicely Tyson, Mary Steenburgen,
Sissy Spacek, Leslie Jordan (Bernard from Boston Legal) and Allison
Janney all have minor but juicy roles. Tyson is like watching an alien.
Your eyes are glued.
The cruelty is about putting others down with a big smile, patronising, and shunning. The main villain is Hilly Holbrook played by Bryce Dallas Howard (a supercilious female). I ached for revenge. Some revenge came in the middle of the movie, but there was no grand finale of revenge the way you would expect from Hollywood. She just plodded on and on being her bitchy, self-absorbed self.
The scene that hit me most emotionally was when a maid was fired without cause, and she went into the child's room she had been caring for and touched each mark on the wall where she had recorded the child's height over the years.
One of the most interesting characters was Celia Foote played by Jessica Chastain. We are introduced to her as a skinny Marilyn Monroe clone air head bimbo who has not the ability to even boil water. Gradually she becomes a more tragic character, even though she remains an air head bimbo. The townspeople are unbelievable rude to her. Her maid gradually teaches her to cook and to have some self confidence. The message is she too has a right to happiness and respect even if she is stupid. The others are jealous because she landed the handsomest and richest guy in town. It is a beautiful movie because you stay sympathetic to her even when she continues to get drunk and barf at a fancy dress ball.
One strange feature of the movie is it had it happy ending about 3/4 the way through, then they just kept tacking on denouement after denouement like some spoof symphony that could not get on with ending.
How many times have we searched in vain for a "good movie". We all say,
"they just don't make good movies anymore".
THIS is one of them. I watched it from start to finish. I would watch it again and tell others to watch it. It was one of the finest movies I have watched in a long, long time. The entire cast did a fantastic believable job in making this story come to life.
It was something you could watch with the entire family. It literally gives you an inside view of how "hired help" was treated back then. It also showed you what it was like to be part of the upper elite and how so many dared not speak their opinions for fear of being cast out.
It showed you that not only did the help do their jobs but some of them honestly cared for members of the family they worked for.
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