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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) has spent 4 years doing her degree in the
North before returning to 1960s Jackson, Mississippi, where her eyes
are opened to the unconscious prejudice which is constantly directed
towards the black domestic staff by the over-privileged housewives of
the area. Skeeter determines to collect the personal recollections of
the domestic maids for publication as a small step towards righting
Let's get something straight - I am an ageing white man from rural England so, apart from having grown up through these times, I have nothing in common with any of these people. I am, however, a human being and this is, above all, a story about human beings and how they show - or don't show - their humanity towards each other. I have not read the book on which this film is based.
Like The King's Speech, The Help is not just a worthy film, it is also an entertaining one. The characters are all engaging and rounded people, and are all well played. The film is frequently moving and, more frequently, very funny. The period is nicely evoked.
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer have been singled out for praise for their performances as the two domestics who are first to tell their stories: for me, however, I most enjoyed Jessica Chastain's performance as a bimbo who is not as empty-headed as she at first appears. Her performance was funny, emotional, and haunting, and vastly different to her performances in The Debt and Texas Killing Fields. Bryce Dallas Howard's monstrous queen bee was both funny and chilling. In truth, all the principals had their moments.
The film is not perfect. It is a touch too long, and what it says is, at this distance in time, something of a given. However, it says it well, and entertainingly, and if it changes one person's point of view - for there are still plenty of people out there who match the types here - then it will have done a good job.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Help is a very entertaining movie about how a group of strong women
make a minor dent in the injustice of segregation. As a movie, it does
a serviceable job, but as history it comes up a little short. Here is a
movie that contains a lot of fine performances and some nice moments,
but seems to dance around the uglier side of The Civil Rights movement.
By the end, the problems of the main characters seem to have come to a
fitting, non-violent conclusion. Yet, the real-life history of this
conflict would be written in blood.
Based on the book by Kathryn Stockett (which I haven't read), the story takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s which, at the time, was run by the brass-bound segregationist Governor Ross Barnett, who had the support of The White Citizen's Council that was determined to keep the black population in its place. In social standing, blacks are subservient to whites and the plight of black women in the work world is cleaning the houses of white families. They clean house and raising the children while the white women fuss about their looks and their social status.
The focus of the film begins with a young idealist, Eungenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone), who has returned home from college to find that the maid who raised her from birth is no longer working there for reasons that her parents refuse to explain. Skeeter becomes curious about the woman who work in her home and in many homes in the south. "Who is taking care of their children while they are taking care of ours?", she wonders.
The focus gradually drifts to some of the maids, mainly Abileen Clark (Viola Davis), a quietly wounded soul who lost her son, and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), an open-faced, boisterous woman whose frustration at being treated like trash by her hateful employer (Bryce Dallas Howard) is quickly coming to a boiling point.
Skeeter aspires to be a writer and has an offer from a New York publisher (Mary Steenburgen) to write a book of personal accounts from the point of view of southern maids (all anonymous, of course) exposing what it is like to work in the houses of white folks, raising their children and cleaning their toilets. This is an unwise proposition given the climate of the times. The white population of Mississippi is determined to stop the progression of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement and that has black women over a barrel. The maids around town want nothing to do with the project: they need work and cleaning houses remains the only work available to them. At first, the only two women willing to participate are Minny and Abileen, but slowly the numbers begin to grow.
What I liked about The Help is the manner in which it paints the black women as individual characters, especially Minny and Abileen. They both have separate and distinct personalities and both have different agendas. They don't just stand as static, noble props for the movie to lean on. Abileen's fury over her son becomes her motivation for getting involved with Skeeter's book and Minny's fury over being treated less-than-human by her employer becomes hers.
The pure emotional heart of the movie is felt by the presence of actress Viola Davis, a wonderful actress that I've been watching with joy for years in films like Doubt (for which she got her first Oscar nomination), Eat Pray Love and last year's forgotten gem Trust. Here, as Abileen, she plays a grieving mother who's quiet frustration over the loss of her son is felt in her very presence. There is a moment deep in the film when she sits at her kitchen table and describes to Skeeter the carelessness of her son's on-the-job accident. There is something in her eyes, in her voice, and in her body language that speaks to the wound deep in her heart. You can feel the fury of this grieving mother. This is a moment, I think, that will get her an Oscar nomination this year. She gives the film's best performance.
There is one character, I'm afraid, that doesn't work at all. That is the one played by Bryce Dallas Howard - Ron's daughter - who occupies the role of Hilly Holbrook, Minny's pathologically racist employer, who is so full of unmerciful venom that it washes over into cliché. She wants a legislation passed that would forbid the maids from using the same bathroom facilities as their employers. This was a real issue at the time, but the movie plays it as an overwrought plot device designed to climax with a moment in which she eats one of Minny's pies, laced with a particularly disgusting ingredient (read this paragraph again carefully and you can probably deduce what it is). It is a moment that might fit in American Pie or There's Something About Mary but seems wrong-headed in a movie about the Civil Right's Movement. I was hoping that some humanity would come to Hilly with the revelation of a past connection with Celia, but sadly, it never does.
I think that The Help is a good movie, a movie with some important things to say and some performances that could turn it into a great movie, rather than just a good one. It is entertaining, but it is also kind of safe. It dances around the uglier sides of life in Mississippi under segregation and comes to an ending that closes the book on the characters with a lot of victories. We never sense that the struggle has just begun.
Just watched this very compellingly historical drama with my movie theatre-working friend who seen it twice before. We both enjoyed this fictional account of many of the African-American female maids and their stories they tell to an aspiring author named Skeeter (Emma Stone). Among those female servants, Abileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer) provide the most interesting of their trials of working for their employers. The most mean of the white employers is one Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) who gets most of her comeuppance in the most dirty ways one can imagine. Then, on the other side of the tracks is Celia (Jessica Chastain) who somehow becomes Minny's savior and vice versa. There's also good supporting turns from Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, Mary Steenburgen and especially Allison Janney. Since I haven't read the book, I'm sure there are some details I haven't been privy to that I'm sure might have made this movie even more compelling. But what I've seen is good enough for me to highly recommend The Help.
There are many stories in our sordid and sorry history that deserve
reverence and a delicate hand when talked about. They should all be
told, absolutely, and hopefully learned from, but we must always
remember that how the story is told can influence the listener almost
as much as the story itself. It can be a tightrope walk along the line
between pride and piety and you want to be careful which side it falls
The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi during the central part of the civil rights movement. A young white woman named Skeeter wants to write something real, something special and she finds it in the socialized and institutionalized mistreatment of the African-American hired help. She ventures to gain their trust and their stories in a dangerous effort to give a voice to the silent underbelly of high Southern society.
This film has been #1 at the box office for three weeks and already is a huge success for the studios. It marches along each weekend as the little movie that could. Some will credit that to the original book already being a best-seller, but we've seen plenty of best-seller adaptations that fizzle sadly on the big screen. Even a well-told story needs excellent execution in order to swing a whole new audience and The Help is boiling over with just that.
Emma Stone, as the stubborn and righteous Skeeter, delivers her most dramatic turn to date and does not fail to impress. Yet the real power comes from the surrounding cast, packed with outstanding performances ranging from beautifully heart-wrenching to disgustingly evil. Starting with the two maids, shown with touching grace and power by Viola Davis (as Aibileen) and Octavia Spencer (as Minny), these wonderful actresses anchor the film in layers upon layers of honesty and courage. On the complete other side of the spectrum, Bryce Dallas Howard delivers a stunningly devious performance as Hilly Holbrook, the resident alpha Stepford wife, clinging to the old ways and old hatreds, fighting the oncoming social change with each of her pearly white teeth and perfectly french-tipped nails. Her quietly controlled rage reminded me constantly of Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil, such poise built around such poison. Jessica Chastain also did a splendid job as Celia Foote, trying desperately to get acceptance from anyone at all, even if it comes from her maid.
As director, Tate Taylor, tried to softly, but honestly, capture the time and place of 1960s Mississippi. There was tension throughout the movie, keeping the audience wondering when the violence of racism was going to strike, but Taylor always kept it just off screen, tempting the horror without needing to show it up close. He also crafted some wonderfully delicate scenes with the character of Celia, shedding light on yet another part of women's history kept in the dark for far too long.
However, as I mentioned earlier, it is a delicate dance and this story can be seen from the angle of another "white person ends racism" story, but I feel that would be shortchanging the core of the story. Stone's character doesn't free the maids from servitude, she just gives them a voice, an outlet which was up to that point held far out of reach.
One of the few things I found unnecessary was Stone's boyfriend Stuart (played by Chris Lowell). Stone feels much more natural and relatable as an gawky outcast, never fitting in with all her married high society friends. The need to show her swing back and forth in the world of troubled relationships just felt like a step too far.
The Help is set in the 1960's where colored people had little to no
rights and mainly focuses on the colored maids working for the "white"
people.I didn't really want to see the movie but it got great reviews
so I decided to check it out. I must say this movie was quite touching
and very well done.
The cast is excellent with award worthy performances from Viola Davis, Emma Stone and Octavia Spencer - the main cast. The acting was amazing and there was great chemistry among the respectful classes of people in the film ( the whites and the blacks).
The script was well written and I love the balance of comedy and drama. There are some intense scenes however the comedy makes the movie more enjoyable rather than just a movie to make you feel sad all the way through. There was a perfects balance there and I loved that. The film also took you on a roller-coaster of emotions. Sometimes you were sad, extremely happy, angry or laughing. Its also one of those movies that can hold your interest from beginning to end.
With great performances, a brilliant script and a film so touching and inspiring, The Help is definitely a must-see!
Let's see now, who will be nominated for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress of 2011, Viola Davis or Octavia Spencer? Bet your bippy that either one or both are going home with a statue. This is one heck of an excellent film because it SHOULD awaken Caucasians to how we humiliated African-Americans for so long. The film is so gripping, it hurts. I myself saw in Washington, DC buses marked "Whites Only." I saw segregated rest rooms, water fountains..you name it. And of course things were even worse for blacks in Mississippi where the movie takes place. How strange.Black maids were good enough to make meals, serve meals and tend to white children but not good enough to be equal in every aspect with whites. How vividly I remember Mississippi racist governor Ross Barnett finally challenged and beaten by Jack and Robert Kennedy. Our President and Attorney General got sick and tired of all the murder and mayhem Barnett knew about yet always had alibis and excuses. Indeed, the racist was taken down and OUT, thank God. "The Help" is a vivid look into those rotten years and why intelligent evolution began to take place. Kudos to the entire cast of this very excellent film.
I had high expectations before seeing the film. I had just read the
book and liked it a lot, one of the best I read in 2011.
So, therefore the movie made me disappointed. The film taking several shortcuts and simplifying the story too much. The perspective of the book (Skeeter's) was changed to be the perspective of the maids, mainly Aibileen and Minny. I felt Skeeter was reduced to a bi-stander and not the driver of collecting the interviews and writing the book as in the original text. Take the story of Skeeter and Stuart. It had been cut down so it did not make any sense why he was so gloomy, drinking to much.
I urge you all, movie audience and the film makers, to read the book!
...this is one of the best films I've ever seen.
I've been told I haven't written enough so my review won't be shown. For goodness sake. I find reading long reviews tedious and boring. This is a great film, worthy of Oscars for Best Film, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (so many to choose from in this film).
I have to write ten lines of text for the review to be taken seriously. I'd like to know why? It's a great film go and see it! It's a great film go and see it! It's a great film go and see it! It's a great film go and see it! If I fill the review up with junk words 'they' will delete my account. Do you know what, I don't care. IMDb is obviously a pompous lot and need to review themselves. It's still not long enough for a review apparently so I'll keep up the twaddle in the sure knowledge my account will be deleted. Hooray, I'll stick to twitter.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Help is the most amazing movie I have ever seen. It touched my heart so much, it just made me see things in such a different way. I dried out my tears watching this movie, complements to the writer/s of this movie and all the actors/actresses. Once again most amazing, touching, creative and honest movie ever. I will never forget this movie, it will always stay with me! The storyline is just so amazing, and you will 100% love this movie. I can promise you that! Once you start watching the movie you will not want to stop, I can guarantee you that! A lot of very good actors/actresses play in this movie and that just makes it even better to watch. There are so many different scenes in this story but they all somehow blend together and mix well together, and this is what makes this movie amazing.
I won't venture in to great detail about the film; I just really felt compelled (after seeing the film half an hour ago) to express my heartfelt thoughts on such a beautiful and touching film. Not only did it bring tears to my eyes (and cheeks, and chin, and blouse!) it made me laugh, made me contemplate and also reflect greatly on the history and thought provoking truth that the film so touchingly, and truthfully depicts. It was beautifully directed, fantastically acted and above all, this films ability to touch the hearts of all those in the theatre really made it a magical experience. Not only is it a film with an historical message, it is a film with a mood; hope. I could go on, but I won't. All I have left to say is please go and watch this incredible film.
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