The Movie Special

DVD Reviews 'n More

THE HELP (2011)

The movie adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller is a well-made drama that has stellar cast, top-notch performances, moving storyline and fabulous attention to detail in set and costume design.

The Help takes place in 1960’s Mississippi where a white aspiring writer Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) wants to find out what happened to her family’s long-term black maid. She also starts to question the way her friends treat their maids and decides to try to write about it through the eyes of the black women who raise the white children and then see them start treating the help like their mothers used to – or worse. Skeeter manages to convince her friend’s maid Aibileen (Viola Davis) to start telling her stories anonymously in secret. Soon they win Minny (Octavia Spencer) on their side. And Minny has tales to tell like nobody else as she has been working for the Queen Bee Herself Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard). The book gets published, unlikely friendships get formed and the civil rights movement continues to unfold.

Tate Taylor’s direction and writing is superb if you don’t count in the length of the movie. The screenplay is full of emotional scenes between the black help and the white children they are taking care of. It also explores the power-shifts between the maids and their employers in depth. The Help does not hugely concentrate on the social upheaval; instead it focuses on the individual injustices. Acting is faultless in this movie. Octavia Specer won an Oscar for her portrayal of the temperamental Minny. Allison Janney brings great depth to Skeeter’s mother. Jessica Chastain as the “marilynmonreosque” Celia Foote – the town’s social outcast – shows her lighter side. Cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt beautifully frames the food and fashion of the sixties.

Is The Help glossy? You bet, but still it manages to grab your attention and move you. It makes you hope that if you had lived in the Sixties Mississippi you would have been more like the strong heroine, Skeeter, than the small-mindedness-in-a-nutshell, Hilly.  But then again maybe like the firecracker Minny baking her special pie…. A movie definitely worth watching.


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