Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Help (2011)

Cinema Sweetheart's Rating: 9 out of 10
Director: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Runtime: 146 minutes

Skeeter Phelan (Stone) always seems to be out of place.  After returning from four years of college, she finds that she's not exactly on the same page as everyone else in her town of Jackson, Mississippi.  Her mother (Allison Janney) is pressuring her to find a husband, while her two best friends Hilly Holbrook (Howard) and Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O'Reilly) who are already married and have children, are trying to set her up on a date with Mr. Holbrook's elusive cousin, who can never seem to make any of their dates.  While asking Elizabeth's African American maid Aibileen (Davis) for help on her housekeeping advice column (a job she hopes will be a stepping stone to something greater), Skeeter gets a crazy idea: asking the black maids around Jackson to help her in writing a book about what life is like working for the white people in the racist South.  The two of them recruit Minny Jackson (Spencer), Aibileen's smart-mouthed friend, who besides being the best cook around, also just happens to have been fired by Hilly Holbrook, and is not above getting revenge.

I first heard about The Help through my college book club.  It was the first book we were given to read, and by far my favorite. As soon as I heard there was a movie coming out, I had marked the dates on my calendar, and waited eagerly for August to roll around.  Of course, with any film adaptation there are going to be changes, and I'll admit that I was pretty worried that the movie would not live up to my expectations.  Rather, it far exceeded them!  The Help really brought the characters to life, making an amazingly enjoyable 2+ hours!

I was really impressed with the cast (Stone, Davis, Spencer, and Howard were AMAZING!), but the set was perfect as well.  This wasn't just filmed in some back-lot in Hollywood; it was actually filmed in Mississippi!  You totally got a feel for the location!  For the duration of the film, it almost felt like you were right there in Jackson!  It was engaging, exciting, and very fun to watch.

While The Help is mostly billed as a drama, it does have it's comedic bits.  Minny is hilariously sassy, and I just loved the antics of little Mae Mobley (Eleanor Henry) and the ditsy Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain).  By filling the cast full of such interesting characters, the heavy topic of the story was lifted somewhat, and made more bearable.  After all, this is a film about racism in the South.  It feels real, it feels powerful.  It was both eye opening, and realistic to see a story like this told from the point of view of the African Americans involved.  Especially, growing up as a white woman in today's world, I never really saw the story from this side.  I always knew that racism was wrong and that it was an ugly thing, but I never got to see right into the minds of the women who were a part of it.

All in all, this is a wonderful movie.  It was uplifting, humorous, inspiring, and powerful.  If you read the book, don't hesitate to see this; for the most part, I felt that it stayed pretty true to the original story.  On the flip side, if you like the movie, be sure to read the book!  This is a great film for all kinds of people-- go with your book club, your gal pals, your mom or your daughter; women of all ages (13+) will be able to find something to love about this movie :)

1 comment:

  1. Love, love, love this movie! It is in my collection. Of course, I am partial to all things Gilliam. I must disagree though, with the reason for dogs rubbing their butts on the grass... it does nothing for me.


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