EMMA STONE VIOLA DAVIS OCTAVIA SPENCER BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD
JESSICA CHASTAIN SISSY SPACEK ALLISON JANNEY CICELY TYSON
Far too long has it been since we had a true Southern film; not since 1991’s Fried Green Tomatoes has there been a film that transported the viewer to the South. If you haven’t heard of The Help then you must be living under a rock somewhere. The beloved and bestselling book has finally been turned into one of 2011’s most anticipated motion picture events, and it doesn’t disappoint. You know how people went nuts over The Blind Side because it was a true, honest and heartfelt story? The Help is that and far beyond. At the film’s halfway mark I knew that this could end up being the film to beat come Oscar time; it’s a frontrunner if I ever saw one. Audiences love a film that is charming and can make you laugh and cry all at the same time. The Help is the movie Steel Magnolias and Driving Miss Daisy fans have been waiting for!
It’s Jackson Mississippi in the 1960’s, one of the worst places in the country dealing with racial discrimination. Having help in a prominent household was just a way of life, even for Skeeter (Stone), who was practically raised by their maid, Constantine (Tyson). Skeeter never really fit in with the showy girls of the town; her hair was never big, she has never had a boyfriend, and her passion is writing. When she attempts to write a story from a maid’s point of view, she turns to Aibileen (Davis), the help of a friend. They have to meet in secret and change all the names for the story, but the hard working maid women of the community all decide to help with their own personal working stories and the book nearly sets the segregated town on fire.
There isn’t a bad performance in the whole movie; Hollywood’s new Julia Roberts – Emma Stone (Crazy Stupid Love, Easy A), who seems to be quickly climbing the ranks as one of America’s most beloved new movie stars, is the driving force of the film. Oscar nominated Viola Davis (Doubt, Trust) just gets better with each role; she is one of those seasoned actors that raises the credibility of any film lucky enough to have her. The Help, however, relies on the supporting performances for the memorable roles, beginning with sassy mouthed Minny, played by Octavia Spencer. Ron Howard’s daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, usually blends into the background with characters in movies like Spiderman 3 or Lady in the Water, but this role will be the one she is remembered for. Finally, there is Jessica Chastain, whose performance can only be compared to that of Annelle played by Daryl Hannah in Steel Magnolias. Chastain, who already delivered a stunning performance earlier this year in The Tree of Life, is unforgettable here and likely the film's best chance at an acting nomination. Beyond that, I don’t think Spacek (In the Bedroom, Get Low) has ever been funnier; she is involved in some of the script's best gags and certainly plays against her usual type.
As funny as The Help is, it’s just as serious. I grew up watching films like A Time to Kill and Ghosts of Mississippi that made a huge impact on my life; its startling every time I am reminded of a time where people were treated like they are in this film; such hate, misunderstanding and ignorant behavior. The story of Ghosts of Mississippi about Medgar Evers is linked within this film to show a broader perspective on that specific point in time. Sometimes I think we need books and films like this to remind us how far we have come as a society and for a young generation, to show what courage and endurance those portrayed in this film were forced to have. The Help is by far one of the best films of the year, but also one of the most important. It goes beyond the expectations I had. It’s a film you will watch to share with everyone and watch again and again.
Final Thought – An Instant classic, one of those films you want to watch for the rest of your life.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Michael Woody
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
This film will be enjoyed and appreciated by a wide range of people at many different levels. It speaks from the heart and engages the viewer intellectually, emotionally, and culturally. I'm sad to say it has a ring of truth now, just as in the sixties, although certainly not to that degree. Hate crimes are still in the news from time to time, and additional minority groups are being targeted, and I'm sure many intended and unintended slights, based on insensitivity at best and hatred at worst, occur every day where people live and work.
I think this movie does help (pun intended) in letting us take the perspective of those disrespected and mistreated and experience some of their humiliation and outrage. This is done in a very tender way, with liberal doses of humor thrown in to balance the pain and guilt it elicits.
Much of the credit for such a fine movie is owed to the director, Tate Taylor, and a wholly bevy of talented actresses. Emma Stone holds her own as the lead, Skeeter, an aspiring writer who is not afraid to speak her mind and stand up for what she believes. She is clear in attributing her strong character and sense of self to her family's maid, Constantine, played by Cicely Tyson. Viola Davis as Aibileen, and Octavia Spencer as Minny, the primary sources of material for Skeeter's book and the movie itself brilliantly convey all the mixed emotions such women feel toward their white employers/families. Bryce D. Howard as Hilly is completely convincing as the major villain,
and Sissy Spacek as her mother is-as always-delightful in cutting through pretences to the heart of the matter. And then there is Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote, and persona non grata among the white-girl clique, lending freshness of spirit and fine subtlety in acting to liven up the story.
The story is told in such a way that we can sympathize and empathize with all the characters, and, hopefully, be inspired to be better and more patient toward others who seem different or whom we don't understand.