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‘The Help’ Review

In Movies on August 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm

by:  Eric Buenning

 

‘The Help’ is an interesting movie, because it has many subplots within the greater story.  It’s also, really, really, freaking good.

 

The story, based on Kathryn Stockett’s book, focuses on Skeetar Phelan (Emma Stone), who is returning home from college at Ole Miss.  Immediately upon return, we can tell that she doesn’t entirely fit in like she once used to.  Everyone else seems to have plans for her, including her mother, who badgers her almost right away as to why she hasn’t had any desire to find a husband.

The two main characters in this movie are Aibilene Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer).  They are both maids, more commonly referred to as “the help”.  Minny worked for social leader (played by Bryce Dallas Howard), but is fired by her.  She then goes to work for Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), who is the white-trash blonde of the town whom everyone dislikes.  Celia has married a successful businessman, and only wants Minny around during the day, so that her husband will think that she was the one cooking the exquisite meals and such.  Minny’s advice extends beyond cooking in some truly heart-breaking moments with Celia, but then that leads to Celia trying to make well with Hilly Holbrook (Howard), making for some truly awkward and hilarious moments at a benefit for Starving African Children (yes, that’s not a typo).

Aibilene is the main caregiver for the young (white) children of the people she works for.  She genuinely does love all the children, and they love her back, but she takes notice that the kids do end up growing up to be exactly like their mothers; something that continuously makes her sick to her stomach.

Skeeter, an aspiring journalist, is looking for something to write about that she believes in.  She decides to try and pursue writing a book from the perspective of “the help”.  She is met with caution when she asks Aibilene for an interview.  Over time, she convinces Aibilene, and then Minny to speak with her, telling her stories of the families they have worked for and providing us with many humorous tales, but also some very honest, heart-breaking moments as well.  As Skeeter learns more and more from these women, her anger gets greater and greater.  She directs that towards her mother, who had let their help go after 29 years of service while Skeeter was gone at college.  Her mom had always hid the real truth from  Skeeter, but due to this recent new-found passion of Skeeter’s, the truth comes out.

 

All these stories being so beautifully intertwined is just one reason why this movie is a must-see.  Director Tate Taylor balances the perfect amount of humor, drama, and heartbreak.  He sheds some light into the Jim Crow days without going too far.  Those times were incredibly volatile, but this movie is careful to focus on the characters and their story more than a different one.

The acting is the other reason to see this.  Emma Stone and Bryce Dallas Howard are great, but aren’t why you should see this.

Ocatavia Spencer might just be the queen of the facial expression.  Her comic timing is absolutely flawless and her pie stunt in the movie is one to remember for a long time.  She’s fantastic.

But fantastic doesn’t even begin to describe Viola Davis.  She is a force in this movie.  Every thing she did or said was incontrovertibly realistic and genuine, and it will possibly become rewarding come Oscar time.

 

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

Trailer for the movie: 

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