A Movie Review: 'The Help'
If you've been following me and my media reviews, you'll notice that I'm not much of a movie goer. Call me a little behind in the times if you want to, it's a very fair assessment. Granted, every once in a while I do catch a film that I absolutely can't ignore. On a whim, my wife brought home a few rentals, and amongst them was 'The Help'. I'd not heard of the film before, and the book of the same name flew under my radar. At her insistence, I sat down, preparing to be bored. In reality, I was enthralled in a truly remarkable and inspiring tale of heroism, determination and courage that will really open your eyes. I'm all for equal rights and civil equality. Gay marriage, sex and race equality, you name it, I support it. As a victim of prejudice and racism, this film really hit a tender spot in my heart that still bleeds for those affected still today.
Tate Taylor directed the film adaptation of the Kathryn Stockett novel, and has done an excellent job of bringing this story to life. It takes place in Mississippi around the 1950s. Slavery has been abolished, but that plantation mentality still exists. Wealthy white people are hiring African American women as maids, but still treat them no better than animals. Prejudice is still an acceptable practice that all are expected to enforce. That is until aspiring journalist Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) returns to town. Skeeter left her home a naive young girl chasing her dreams of writing, but returns to the eye opening realization of just how bad the conditions are for 'the help'. When Skeeter meets up with the disgruntled maid Abilieen Clark (Viola Davis) she sees a golden opportunity to expose the horrible treatment of these human beings. Aibileen, secretly, recounts her many stories of abuse at the hands of 'the white man', while Skeeter records them on paper. Meanwhile, Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the perfect picture of the Southern genteal. However, her vindictive, racist misconceptions are top notch in brutality. She fires her faithful server Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) for petty offenses, like using the wrong toilet. Fortunately, Minny takes a job with the eccentric Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) and decides to join Aibileen and tell her stories through Skeeter. As Skeeter finds herself with a publishing deal, her book causes an uproar in the community. Secrets are uncovered, scandals are revealed and bitter truths come to light. But for Abilieen and Minny, revenge has never tasted so. . .sweet.
The movie was cast very, very well. Stone portrays the sympathetic, yet determined role of Skeeter almost perfectly. While I wasn't 100% sold on her Southern accent, it's great to see her portray a more grown up, passionate character. Viola Davis steals the show as Aibileen. My eyes were always drawn to her in every scene. Her believability is without a doubt, the strongest of the cast. I believe in the character because Viola simply IS that character. Supporting actress Octavia Spencer also does a nice job portraying the abused Jackson. The only real issue I noticed was the timing of her line delivery. I'm not saying she didn't deserve the role, I just felt her timing was off just a little bit. I though that Jessica Chastain does well portraying Celia. Celia tugged on my heartstrings just a bit as we watched her private pain and her need to belong somewhere.
I'm not an expert film reviewer by any means, but I can tell you when a movie truly moves me. I wish that I had known about the novel before hand, but now that I do, I'm sure I'll be paying it a visit. Although it's rooted in painful and brutal betrayal, 'The Help' is an uplifting story that will make you realize that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. I wholeheartedly recommend checking out the movie, and make sure to have a box of tissue handy!