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The Help

A movie directed by Tate Taylor

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Entertaining, well-acted crowd-pleaser; but needs a bit of help.

  • Feb 13, 2012
**1/2 out of ****

During the early 1960's - at the time of the Civil Rights era - there were the upper class men and women, and then there were the Help. Who, and what, was "the help", exactly? Why, they were the household labor force, consisting entirely of blacks. Most of them were women. They acted as maids, servants, and perhaps even slaves to their superiors/employers; obeying every last order in fear of being disciplined if they failed to adhere. They lived dangerous lives; the whites, however, sat there in their fancy chairs and clothes; sipping their tea and chatting away in common acts of soulless socialization.

However, it was no well-kept secret that there was racial violence that negatively defined the times. Blacks were getting shot every day; and these women were frightened that they could be next just for resuming their everyday duties of running errands for their employers. Was it worth crossing the street at the risk of one's life? Did the rich folk deserve these strong, willful, but desperate black women's loyalty? The answer to both of those questions would, without a doubt, be no.

"The Help" attempts to tell the story of the few respectable whites who were attentive and kind to the maids. The title of the film refers to the name of a book that is written by one of the central characters - a young, energetic college graduate who goes by the nickname of Skeeter (Emma Stone) - and it is very much based on her experiences whilst conversing with the help. In the film, there are many members of this "help"; although the only ones I think you need know of are the soft-spoken Aibileen (Viola Davis) and the loud-mouthed Minny (Octavia Spencer). They act as Skeeter's subjects when she interviews them; initially for an article that shall appear in the local paper, but it soon becomes clear that a few pages cannot contain this incredible story in all its rich detail and entirety.

The story is filled with people both nice and down-right cruel. We like those who are kind; and revile those who are not. Skeeter, in particular, is pleasant to be around throughout; while most of the members within her circle of friends - which is established mostly by class, over popular interest - are anything but. One of them is the mean-spirited Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard); a woman so fascinatingly unlikable that I can describe her with a single five-letter word, which starts with a B. But where there's hatred and arrogance; there is genuine kindness, and here, all that comes in the form of a social outcast named Celia (Jessica Chastain). Celia is indeed of the same class as Skeeter's friends, but some romantic ties keep her well out of the social current. Nevertheless, she has a good heart; and when Minny is hired to be her new house-maid, she treats her with sincerity.

The film has its heart in the right place, and comes armed with a few wonderful performances. Stone is good in her role (although I don't suppose it will be one that gets her any more popular than she already is as an actress); with Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer taking home top prize. Seriously, if there's any reason that one can't take their eyes off the screen; it's these two wonderful leading ladies, who have been rightfully met with much praise and admiration (and awards) for their outstanding work in this film. I just wish that the rest of the cast could have kept up with their efforts.

See here: "The Help" is a competently made, entertaining movie that is never boring (not even for a mere second); but it sugarcoats certain relevant, important details and issues of the times that it claims to be so passionate about. Take, for example, the violent acts committed against these poor women when their white employers lost their temper. The film is rated PG-13 (and appropriately so) in order to gain the family audience that it aims to appeal to; but while this means big bucks, it also means less realism. That's one thing that disappointed me to the point where the film was merely entertaining, and nothing more. I don't see what all the fuss is about.

Now, I don't go into historical films expecting them to be 100% accurate; but "The Help" is almost maddeningly ignorant of the big picture. It shows brief, unsatisfying depictions of the hard times that these women faced; but the focus seems to be more-so on the upper class women (and Skeeter) than on the smarter, more interesting characters in the story. The film is intended as a relationship drama shared between the blacks and the whites; although this is something that never takes off as one might anticipate. All-in-all, it still makes for an entertaining night at the movies; and I suppose it would be wise of me to recommend "The Help" because I expect most people will be able to look past the inaccuracies and potential offenses in regards to the history behind its story. Spencer and Davis are deserving of their Oscar nominations; the film, however, is not.

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More The Help reviews
review by . November 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Starting with a sensational cast and a talented director, The Help unveils the most usual and common racial theme in a customized manor. It transcends from being dramatic, powerful and heartbreaking to being funny, excentric and flamboyant in an unique and hilarious way. While it depicts a warm and thoughtful story about the 1960s racial era in Mississippi in which strong black women were treated so harsh by their "employers", The Help succeeds in being mature in a childish …
review by . August 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Based in the racially charged Deep South during the sixties The Help takes a look at the perspective of the hired help and what they were forced to grin and take during Jim Crow. The heart of the story is in the right place. Everything else seems to be scattered from the emotion to the narrator. This fluctuation may work for a book but in the movie the story seems to be all over the place.      The story itself is very convincing and connects itself to the audience. …
review by . June 02, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Entertaining and thought-provoking
The year is 1963, and Skeeter returns from college to find life as usual among her privileged set. She’s the only one in the Junior League who notices that the black servants must silently endure insults and degradation at the hands of their oblivious employers. She decides to write a book about how the help really feel about their jobs and asks to interview several maids. This is socially risky for Skeeter and seriously dangerous for the maids.   I loved the book and was glad that …
review by . August 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         The Help is extraordinary in the way it evokes an era and explores an unspoken but well-understood social order, specifically in regards to race relations. It takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s, at which point the Jim Crow laws were still in effect – the segregation of public schools, public transportation, restrooms, restaurants, drinking fountains, movie theater entrances, and even the U.S. military. During this time, …
review by . August 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
We could all use a little help
THE HELP   Written and Directed by Tate Taylor   Starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard and Octavia Spencer      Aibileen: What if you don't like what I got to say 'bout white people?      Jackson, Mississippi has a rich history but it certainly also has its fair share of shame. Great turmoil does however make for great drama in novice filmmaker, Tate Taylor’s THE HELP, based on the wildly popular novel of the …
Quick Tip by . December 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I never ever watch these type of movies, but last weekend my surplus of redbox rental codes and lack of movie selection lead me to rent The Help. I'd heard all the good things about it while it was in theaters and still put it on the back burner. I'm glad i did finally give it a chance though, because it was an amazing movie! Its been a while since i watched a movie that held my full attention for the entire runtime. Needless to say i will be adding this to my movie collection this weekend.
review by . August 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Every once in a while a movie comes along that completely transcends entertainment. Based on a novel I've not read, The Help adds one more layer to the Civil Rights movement. The hardworking layer of the African American maids who lovingly raised the children of their employers and then suffered many of those same children growing into bigoted adults. Stories are shared, lives explored, attitudes revealed and the fictional account is likely just a tiny shadow of reality.   …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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There are male viewers who will enjoyThe Help, but Mississippi native Tate Taylor aims his adaptation squarely at the female readers who made Kathryn Stockett's novel a bestseller. If the multi-character narrative revolves around race relations in the Kennedy-era South, the perspective belongs to the women. Veteran maid Aibileen (Doubt's Viola Davis in an Oscar-worthy performance) provides the heartfelt narration that brackets the story. A widow devastated by the death of her son, she takes pride in the 17 children she has helped to raise, but she's hardly fulfilled. That changes when Skeeter (Easy A's Emma Stone) returns home after college. Unlike her peers, Skeeter wants to work, so she gets a job as a newspaper columnist. But she really longs to write about Jackson's domestics, so she meets with Aibileen in secret--after much cajoling and the promise of anonymity. When Aibileen's smart-mouthed friend Minny (breakout star Octavia Spencer) breaches her uptight employer's protocol, Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) gives her the boot, and she ends up in the employ of local outcast Celia (Jessica Chastain, hilarious and heartbreaking), who can't catch a break due to her dirt-poor origins. After the murder of Medgar Evers, even more maids, Minny among them, bring their stories to Skeeter, leading to a book that scandalizes the town--in a good way. Not sinceSteel Magnoliashas Hollywood produced a Southern woman's picture more likely to produce ...
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Director: Tate Taylor
Genre: Drama
Release Date: 12 August 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Tate Taylor, Kathryn Stockett
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