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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There have been a number of films about the Deep South during the Civil
Rights era, mostly ("Mississippi Burning" and "Ghosts of Mississippi"
being examples) concentrating on the political struggle for equality.
"The Help" is a recent film which brings a slightly different approach
to this period, concentrating on the relationship between well-to-do
white Southerners and their black maids.
Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan is a young white woman from a wealthy family in Jackson, Mississippi. She has ambitions to make a career in writing and journalism, and plans to write a book about the experiences of black maids (referred to as "the help") working for white families. Unlike most of her friends, Skeeter is a liberal on racial issues and is horrified by the bigoted views which she has heard other white women express, often quite openly in front of their black servants. She hopes that her book will help to expose this sort of prejudice, but finds that no maids are willing to be interviewed.
Eventually, however, two maids, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson, come forward. Both have good cause to be dissatisfied with their employers, especially Minny who has not only been sacked but also falsely accused of theft. Minny's employer Hilly is a particularly unpleasant individual, with an obsession with forcing black maids to use separate toilet facilities from the families they work for. The real reason for Minny's sacking was that she used the family's indoor bathroom rather than use an outside toilet during a thunderstorm. (One thing I have never understood why people like Hilly, who obviously has a poisonous dislike of all black people, did not simply employ a white maid; perhaps they could not find any white women willing to work for the low wages that black maids were paid).
Some films with a "civil rights" theme, "Mississippi Burning" being an example, have a male-dominated cast, but "The Help" is very much a "women's film" with all the main roles, both heroines and villains, being taken by women. There is an attempt to give Skeeter a boyfriend, but their brief friendship- it never really deserves the name "romance"- fizzles out when he disapproves of her book and of her views on the race question. With that exception, all the male actors play very minor roles.
With the exception of Bryce Dallas Howard from "The Village" and Viola Davis, who greatly impressed me in "Doubt", most of the leading actresses in the film were faces I had never seen before. (I must admit that I did not recognise Howard, here a brunette although normally a redhead). I understand that Jessica Chastain actually made seven feature films in 2011- a quite remarkable work-rate for a modern actress- but this is the only one I have yet seen. Chastain plays Celia Foote, Skeeter's only ally among Jackson's housewives. Although Celia's husband is from the city's wealthy elite, she herself is from a working-class background, which means that the likes of Hilly despise her as poor white trash who has got above herself. Although historically many poor whites were just as racist as rich ones, if not more so, Celia's experience of being on the receiving end of bigotry makes her a much more liberal employer. (Minny goes to work for her after being sacked by Hilly).
Chastain's is one of a number of excellent performances in this film; the others come from Emma Stone as Skeeter, Davis (even better here than she was in "Doubt") as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as the sharp-tongued Minny, a woman determined to fight back against prejudice. (Spencer won a "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar).
I would have a couple of criticisms of the film. Howard as Hilly, like some of the other actresses playing the snooty society matrons, plays her character rather too much as a one-dimensional stereotype, the snobbish upper-class bitch. The sub-plot involving Minny's chocolate pie seemed out of place, the sort of vulgar humour which would be more at home in a Farrelly Brothers gross-out comedy than in a supposedly serious film. I would not, however, agree with the criticism some have made that the film demeans African-Americans by showing them as dependent upon whites for their emancipation. It is the black characters here who display real courage in bringing their working conditions to public notice, far more so than does Skeeter. She risks nothing worse than losing the friendship of a few people she never cared for in the first place; they risk the loss of their jobs and their livelihoods, and possibly also violence from white racists.
Despite my criticisms, I felt that overall "The Help" was an excellent film- a well-acted, emotionally satisfying human drama with some powerful acting performances, and one which shed an interesting light on this period of American history. 8/10
In 2008,I had a chance to watch a movie that stood on it's strong performances and an excellent adaptation from a Tony Award winning play...........I'm talking of the movie 'Doubt'.The movie had nearly the entire cast nominated for the Oscars that year.One performer was Voila Davis,who had strongly caught my attention for her class performance.She had a screen space of hardly a couple of minutes .....but she exploited those moments completely to show us an authentic portrayal of a concerned mother. This year in The Help,she again manages to move us with her acting potentials.She does the role of a black maid who raises white children.The movie is set against the backdrop of racism, wherein the maids (all colored women) from Jackson come forward to give in their experiences in the houses of the whites where they are employed.And each ones experiences comes together to take in the shape of a book by Anonymous, thanks to Skeeter(Emma Stone.... another notable character in the movie),which turns out to be popular but also a threat to some of the white women who have to face the consequences of their mindset(one hilarious moment being when Mrs.Hilly eats the pie made by Minny........an incredible revenge I say)...oh yeah .........Minny....Octavia Spencer,I should mention has done an outstanding work....one class apart performance......and even Jessica Chastain manages to grab your attention as a dumb white mistress(Ms.Celia Foote) to Minny but she is extremely good at heart(which I believe is more important to call yourself a human being). Viola Davis as Aibileen is not only just impressive but is the real show stealer.The performances of the women are so brilliant that the viewer tends to overlook everything else about the film. But what makes the performances so strong is beautiful adaptation of the screenplay and a good job from the director ........Tate Taylor.....he surely does deserve kudos.What I loved about his work was that he could purely read my mind....I gave it a thought .......is the movie about racism?.......NO..........it is only about the maids who are doing an incredible favor to their mistress.......raising their children.........and in return these women get treated like shits.I adore the way he made this point clear across the film. The movie on a whole has been brilliant.....after a long time I got to see a movie that made me laugh,cry,thrill.......and most importantly made me feel humbled...It is surely one of the best movies of the year!!!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Even though the movie The Help is a work of fiction, here's a true
story: I offended someone today when I proclaimed at work: "I finally
saw the first 5-star movie of 2011: 'The Help'!"
Of course, with a touchy subject such as this, it's a 50/50 chance you'll offend with someone with this movie and subject-matter. Granted, I thought I would be in good graces since the person I upset was black and I only briefly mentioned it where she could overhear it.
Apparently, her beef was mainly for the fact that the prejudice portrayed still runs true today don't I know that! Anyways, like I always say about most work places: "Why even install carpet in the office, when the floor is covered with eggshells?"
This movie was moving, brilliant, wonderfully written, emotional, well-acted and stirs up enough emotions to make us all think twice on how we treat each other. I know I stood back and was actually ashamed of being white during this viewing.
Rebel Skeeter (the always wonderful Emma Stone) is wanting to write a book against her (ENORMOUSLY) racist bridge-playing peers and in the POV of "the help," i.e. black maids when "the deep south" still treated non-whites as inhumanly as possible. It's not easy for a VERY hard working servant to give their story, but with great courage it happens. And then it happens it hits the fan.
Loved this movie. The performances all around, whether you love the individual or HATE HATE HATE the character, were pitch-perfect. The dialogue had be both rolling and angry (in a good way) at the same time. And the pacing, despite the more-than-2-hours running time was completely well used.
I also love the fact that it was fiction. Some people are claiming this as heavy-handed. Bah. This was a perfect summarization of the travesty that happened back in the 1950s/1960s and like my fellow peer realizes, still today. SEE THIS MOVIE and then look at ourselves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I wish I could say that all racism is in the past but I think we all
know that is not true. However, we can appreciate a film that brings
this particular injustice to the forefront. This movie brings everyone
to the table in that respect. Many would rather not be there and many
more will simply not see this film but perhaps however slowly, we may
all eventually come to recognize racism when we see it. Maybe someday
we can rise above the amount of melanin in a person's skin, but coming
in a year when our (first black) President was forced to prove he is a
citizen of the United States by showing his birth certificate in a
press conference for the first time ever (even though 3 years prior he
had already shown the legal form for his state), and coming in a year
when the debt ceiling was held hostage for the first time ever, and
coming in a year when the Speaker of the House for the first time ever,
publicly rebuffed a sitting president's date request to give a speech
to both the House and Senate, it is clear that day is not today.
This film is not perfect but it is necessary even so many years after the civil rights act became law. I can't think of a sadder statement.
I was disappointed by this light Movie version of a great book, which
it is not 100% true to. The light, fluffy, glossy look and woeful
acting (from a good female ensemble cast) strips away the suffering and
hardship reducing the feeling for the characters (which should be it's
focus). Instead of staying truly serious to the subject matter this is
flipped into an ugly light-hearted entertainment journey (trying to
create the Helps versus the nasty white housewives).
The film was interesting but limited, with most of the second half giggling and obsessed with a 'poo pie' and failed to show the 'Help's' as anything other than minimally reluctant nannies (not slaves).
I would wash away my small memories of this film, in a way that would sum up this forgettable, washy, disappointment of a film. I think too much fun was had, and ultimately was the focus, of a Mississippi history lesson that never took off. 'To Kill A Mocking bird' this most definitely isn't!
I watched this film without any presumptions as to what it would show
me. And have no prior knowledge of the text. So after watching The Help
i thought i'd go and do some research, naturally the first thing that
pops up is IMDb and i am genuinely shocked that everyone is so gushing
about what to me was at times mere dross and at others actually
insulting. But mostly quite sad.
If i was to rent starship troopers then it would be fair for me to assume that depth, pathos and any kind of layered motivation wouldn't be on the menu. yet when you watch a film set at one of the most volatile and important eras of the last 500 years and it basically is a Rom-com by numbers except black people are the shy guy who gets the hot girl in the end and the 'mean-girl-who-doesn't-get-her-way' is the symbol of indolent white middle-class racist. I expected better, clearly i'm looking in the Wong place and i apologise i will stick to books in the future. "i loves me some fried chicken" - "you can have a job here for life" oh really thanks.
Watching "The Help" is like living the days of black women back in the
days and witnessing the struggle and hardship in almost every aspect of
their lives. This is easily one of the best of the year, or at least
one of the most touching movies of the year for me.
I should have seen this back in the summer but I ended up with other choices. 2011 has been a good year for movies, especially with a number of blockbusters that are not at all bad (No, I am not talking about Transformers and Green Lantern). Although, there may be some competition at the Academy Awards this year, I still believe that "The Help" will get away with some wins which it deserves.
To start with, it is the stunning performances.
Emma Stone, taking the leading role of Skeeter, has shown the audience that her acting can be much more than "Easy A". It is a big step forward and she has definitely given a Oscar-worthy performance. Indeed, she is also essential for the story development because it is basically her concern and passion that drive the later events and keep the surprises coming.
Viola Davis from "Doubt" is also one of the protagonists. Playing one of the black maids named Aibileen, she portrays the emotions of fear and hope. From a passive character to an active help to Stone (Skeeter), her performance is incredible and totally realistic. And of course, having been a Oscar nominee once, this time her even better performance absolutely deserves recognition from the Academy once again.
Then we have Octavia Spencer who has the role of Minny, also a maid. The performance is again Oscar-worthy. Her "tougher" appearance and personality are what make her stand out and have a different attitude. But indeed, the bottom line is Minny and Aibileen are united by an opportunity to change, to let their voices be heard.
Last but not least, we have Howard. I would be surprised if she is not nominated at Oscars this year, after her amazing performances in "The Tree of Life", this, and "Take Shelter". As a housewife who has Octavia (Minny) as her maid, her character is the "boss" of the housewives. The scenes when she bursts into rage are superb.
Other performances are also good in "The Help", but I guess the above four are the ones that I find outstanding. If the Academy recognizes this film, I believe there is a high chance that at least two nominations of Supporting Actress will be from this, and it will be hard to pick one for sure.
"Change begins with a whisper". That is the kind of story "The Help" wants to tell. As the movie approaches the end, there is a great number of touching scenes that can make you cry. And throughout the movie, there are scenes that can make you laugh, hard.
"The Living Proof", as a soundtrack played at the end of the movie when the closing credits roll in, is an extraordinary song. It is beautiful music, and its lyrics and meanings fit the theme of the movie perfectly. There are also other great songs played, also near the finish of the movie. Again, "The Help" should also be a great competitor in the category of Best Original Song at Oscars.
"The Help" is a combination of astonishing performances by a number of great actresses and a well-written story which I guess most viewers and the Academy will like.
What a horrible movie. Everything so new and clean. Mississippi and the
south and the north weren't that clean. Freshly painted buses for the
maids to be taken to the white folks? Cars with no dirt on them?
Dresses of the rich folk and the po' with no wrinkles? Oh, come on.
What is it with Skeeter's hair? It appears to be curly from the 2000's...not realistic....when was that curly hideous hairstyle popular? We had no maids in the 50's and 60's, so I can't comment on their treatment by the white folk. I'm sure they must have put them down.
A job is a job, unfortunately, whether it is working as a maid for a white family or a slob in a factory. You suck up to the bossman or bosslady. Of course it is demeaning, but it is that for everyone.
A very hard movie to make it through...just too fake.
This film is phenomenal. Truly one of the best I've seen in a long time
and I attend movies weekly. It's an inspirational, courageous and
empowering story about very different extraordinary women in the 1960s
South who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project
that breaks society's rules and puts them at risk.
The movie is filled with poignancy, humor and hope. Also brings forward messages that all audiences should take heed of, regarding who we are as people,skin color is not a factor.
All performances were outstanding,deserving of even more public recognition, awards and credits received. Should have won the Academy Award for sure.
I saw this movie a few years ago but can still convey to friends and acquaintances my favorite scenes that made such a lasting impression on me. Mostly those with a comedic flair that packed such a powerful statement.
An inspirational drama, The Help (a deft adaptation of Kathryn
Stockett's best-selling novel) is a rousing film with an endearing
heart and subtle poignancy that is sometimes overlooked, but once
discovered is a certain crowd-pleaser.
Set in Jackson, Mississippi at the dawn of the Civil Rights movement, Emma Stone plays the plucky, fresh-out-of-college Skeeter, who is just plain enough to stand out in her clique of well-to-do white housewives who, beneath their frivolous goings on, treat their black house- helps like slaves. Aggrieved at the racial bigotry she witnesses, and determined to break into the New York literary world, she resolves to write a book that will allow the town's black maids to give a voice to their experiences. Her idea is met with lucrative publishing prospects, but finding any maid willing to give her the real story is a problem. Viola Davis plays Aibileen Clark, who carries a sorrow that is only partly built from a lifetime of servitude. She has lost her own child to racial prejudice and is faced with the growing horrors of racism every single day at work. Then there is her feisty, too-sassy-to-suffer-forever friend Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) who undergoes similar humiliation at the hands of the meticulously- coiffed society princess Miss Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard). Although with some trepidation, the two finally open up to Skeeter and once they do, the other maids join in and stories begin flowing. Soon, through clandestine meetings, they manage to start something that becomes a force of real change!
The Help paints its characters, black and white alike, with a very broad bush that adroitly pushes the audience's buttons to elicit laughter and tears. On the surface, The Help might seem like another discourse on the evils of racism. But look closer and you will find that it is a much more complex tale. While the story takes place at a time of seismic social upheaval, racism is just a sidelight in a story that centers on the commonalities that the women faced in the repressive air that filled the early 1960s. In Tate Taylor's hands, a storyline that could have been mushy and preachy becomes genuinely stirring. He succeeds in creating characters you really care about and delivers its message without resorting to sickly sweet sentimentality or becoming too self-congratulatory.
And then there are the charming performances that give the story such heart. Taylor expertly juggles all the characters and their stories, providing each actress a chance to stand out in a flock of fascinating women. Stone has an innate likability and is sparkling as Skeeter. Howard embodies the hissable Hilly with a vibrant panache. Jessica Chastain delivers the wonderfully tacky, white- trash Celia with flair, giving her pathos and earnestness. Both Allison Janney and Sissy Spacek are faultless in their maternal turns. But it's Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer who breathe life into the movie in their career defining performances. Davis gives Aibileen an elusive truth that jumps off the screen and delivers a perfectly nuanced performance (her hypnotic gaze alone could carry a film). Spencer plays a wonderfully cheeky Minny, offering plenty of comic relief, and a respectable honesty to her sass.
The Help picks its audience up and carries it along in its engrossing, affecting wake: and then, like the best nursemaids, it calms us down with a large spoonful of healing syrup. The Help not only has its 'pie' but eats it too (Pun intended. Be assured, you'll never look at chocolate pie the same way again)!
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