Sunday, August 28, 2011

Full Review: The Help

Grade: A

Set in the 1960’s, Skeeter has just returned home to Mississippi after graduating from college. She is determined to become a writer and takes a job at the local newspaper writing a housekeeping advice column. While reconnecting with old friends, she sees the way that everybody treats the black maids who clean their houses and raise their children. When one woman in particular, Hilly Holbrook, puts forth an initiative to have everyone build separate bathrooms for the help to use, Skeeter decides to ask some of the maids to answer some questions and tell stories from their perspective. Aibileen is the first person to agree. However, in the midst of the civil rights movement, more maids begin to step forward to tell their stories and help Skeeter write her book that when released, could shake the very foundation of southern society.

I will admit I was a bit wary about this movie when I first heard about it. I didn’t get why Hollywood would chose to make a fictional movie about the civil rights movement when there are so many amazing true stories to tell. However, after The Help was released, I started hearing about the performances and I became increasingly interested in seeing this movie. I’m really glad that I decided to watch this movie. It is a well written, well made and extremely well performed movie. Despite the fact that all of the characters in the movie are made up, all of the events happening around them were very real. I was very impressed with how good this movie was and how powerful it felt and the emotion in it was intense. It’s no wonder to me that this movie is already getting early Oscar buzz.

The movie touches on many interesting issues from back then. It shows how these maids raised these people’s children (often far more and far better than the actual parents) but yet were treated poorly and not allowed to even use the bathroom inside the house. It shows how even though these women raised these children and were close to them, the children would grow up only to treat them like third class citizens, just like everybody else. It discussed how even though the maids were technically employed by these people, often they were inherited as though they were objects. One of my favorite aspects of this movie was the character of Celia Foote, who was outcast by the rest of the girls because she doesn’t act like the rest of them do. Celia hires Minny and rather than treat her like everyone else treats their maids, she treats Minny like a friend and they form a wonderful relationship.

Emma Stone (Easy A, Crazy Stupid Love) plays the lead role of Skeeter. It is great to see Emma Stone stretch her wings a bit in this movie. She usually plays much more comedic roles and it was nice to see her in a more dramatic role. She did a great job in the movie and proved my thoughts about her potential as an actress. Viola Davis (Knight and Day, Doubt) plays the role of Abileen. She is an amazing actress and she delivers a powerful performance in the movie, I can’t say enough about her in this role and I strongly believe she will get many award nominations out of it. Bryce Dallas Howard (Herafter, Terminator Salvation) plays the role of Hilly Hilbrook, essentially the villain of the movie. She did a great job with this role and was extremely convincing in her performance. Octavia Spencer plays the role of Minny Jackson, Abileen’s best friend. It was interesting seeing her in a prominent role in a movie and a serious role at that and she did a great job with it. The movie also features great performances by Allison Janney, Jessica Chastain, Sissy Spacek, Ahna O’Reilly and more.

The Help is a great movie and one of the better feel good movies of the year. It manages to tackle the difficult subject with grace and meaning. One thing that really amused me while watching this movie was that of all the horrible things that are said and done to these maids and to black people in general in this movie, the audience I watched it with was never more horrified and offended than when one of the characters spanked her child. I recommend that everybody go out and see this movie when you have a chance, you won’t regret it.

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