Monday, January 23, 2012
"The Help" is a compelling story about courage and civil rights from the best selling novel written by Kathryn Stockett about a southern society girl, Skeeter (Emma Stone), in Mississippi during the 1960s, who is determined to become a writer when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. The film is director Tate Taylor's sophomore directorial work following the "Pretty Ugly People" (2008) that he wrote and directed, which received mixed reviews. With "The Help" he has the backing of a powerful novel to work with that he follows closely to retain the beauty of the story.
The film shows how the bond between the black maids and the children they take care of is stronger than even with their mother's who are more concerned with their social position than with the responsibilities of being a mother. This was beautifully shown by Aibileen (Viola Davis) where she tells the child that she cares for "you is kind, you is smart, you is important"; and continues throughout as she provides comfort at times of ignorance from the mother. The same passion is shown by Constantine (Cicely Tyson) who helped raise Skeeter into the independent and compassionate woman that Emma Stone portrays. The courage and compassion that Skeeter demonstrates by approaching a difficult civil rights issue that is being lead by her childhood friend Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the catalyst for Aibileen to find the strength that she has lost.
The book that Skeeter writes is the black maids perspective comprised of stories from Aibileen as well as Minny (Octavia Spencer) who shows Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) how important Crisco is and the most memorable story about "Two Slice Hilly". Fair warning to stay away from any pie your friends/enemies make you. However, the book wouldn't be complete without her own story about her relationship with Constantine and her mother Charlotte (Allison Janney) who is battling cancer.
There are a few scene stealers in the cast as well including the hilarious Leslie Jordan as the news paper boss for Skeeter that gives her a job and who is convinced that someday they will learn that smoking is bad for you. Not to be outdone is the always impressive Sissy Spacek as the mother to Hilly who is approaching a time in her life where she is becoming forgetful and rather than being assisted by her daughter she find comfort from Minny. She might be forgetful, but she will always remember two things (but you have to watch the movie to find out what those two things are).
Many of my friends spoke highly of the novel, and the film is even more successful than I had imagined. The performances carry the film along with the well written story from Kathryn Stockett. The most amazing performance comes from Viola Davis. I was critical of the Best Supporting Actress nomination Viola Davis received for her performance "Doubt" (2008), however she shines in this film in a more substantial role. Not only is she deserving of a best supporting actress nomination, but is quite possibly the leading contender. I give this film 4 Quacks.