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27 January 2012

The Help (2011)

Directed by: Tate Taylor
Screenplay by: Tate Taylor


Cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia L. Spencer
Genre: Drama
Colour, 145 Minutes


There are a few who have not enjoyed this film, but Golden Globe winning The Help is a film with plenty of heart that captures a moment of time when things were not the best. I am talking of the 1950’s in the Southern states of America. I think the thing that puts people off is the setting concept. Films based on racism towards black people have been done many times (Mississippi Burning, Hairspray etc.), but in no way here does it bring anything down as it works effectively. The films touching characterisation and portrayal of just how cruel hearted some people can be can serve up a very entertaining movie.

Set in the mid 50’s Mississippi, our story follows Skeeter (Emma Stone), Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer) very different, extraordinary women in Mississippi during the 1960s, who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project that breaks societal rules and puts them all at risk. From their improbable alliance a remarkable sisterhood emerges, instilling all of them with the courage to transcend the lines that define them, and the realization that sometimes those lines are made to be crossed-even if it means bringing everyone in town face-to-face with the changing times. 

The main thing that makes the film great is it makes you think, especially if you’re a young person who was not around during the time of the racism depicted. With things like ‘the mammy figure’ and the ‘Jim Crow laws’ floating around at this period of time, it makes me sick to imagine people would be so heartless (not to mention stupid). Though, I cannot guarantee it was really as bad as this without knowing someone from the era. The white people of the film are the big antagonist of the film, but it also shows that not everyone is sinister and evil. That is the best thing the film does, it shows human kindness, compassion and most of all, tolerance.
The characters in the film are impeccable and boast emotion with the truly touching performances given by Viola Davis, as Aibileen was a highly engaging performances. I don’t care if people say she was ‘too dramatically glossy or ‘Oscar-bait’, because she was delightfully powerful in her role.

Another highlight performance is that of Octavia L. Spencer as Minnie, who just so happens to not burn friend chicken.  This courageous woman tackles her hard life, but takes it on the chin and keeps looking forward. She is a brilliant character who was well acted. Emma Stone played Skeeter like a saint, showing how caring and compassionate she is as she fights through the racial discrimination.

The films three story's follow Skeeter working on her book as Minnie contributes stories to the book, and is also helping Cellia Foote (Jessica Chestain), who is the films struggling wife who can’t cook very well and lives in a very empty house. Abilene’s story is of her contributing most of the story’s (and revealing a shocking one) to Skeeter’s book.

It is true that the film does try quitter hard in its attempt to show racism and its themes and sugar-coating it. If it were not for the performances of Davies and Spencer the film would just be a glossy way to tell a story of intolerance. The drama is quite hard hitting, but does try quite hard to do so. One thing for surer, the film has plenty of heart. 


It is worth mentioning the film is based on the book by Kathryn Stocket, which I have not read myself yet, but I may in the future. Tate Taylor who wrote and directed the film did a fine job from what I have seen (though, I don't know if he has changed anything with the book and such). This is a director whom I am unaware of, and perhaps he will be promising in time to come. 

One thing I definitely credit the film for is the beautiful cinematography. All those set pieces, roads, cars and costumes all looked fluorescently appealing. It was partially authentic with the style, but a little more Edward Scissorhands fantasy styled. Nevertheless, the style definitely created the 50’s atmosphere. I just love seeing visions of the 50’s in films, because they always capture similar things, like hairstyles, cars and dresses. They all show how stylish the time period was.


The films biggest problem is it is just the easy way of white people trying to solve racism. The film does not have a streak of originality as it tries to explain how sinister it is to discriminate and be racist. However, I still feel this film had plenty of heart making up for that a little, and plays as a great drama. 


The Help offers plenty of emotion, and for some it may just seem to be a cheap-ass way to get the audience crying. Well, I think due to the films strong characterization and gripping plot it is one of this years finest films that will have you rooting for the characters to gain success. Simply a compelling and spellbinding film.


My Rating: 8.5/10


Extra Information:
At IMDB
At RottenTomatoes
Produced by:Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, Brunson Green
Music by: Thomas Newman
Country: United States
Country: English
Age Certificate: 12
Budget: $25 Million

6 comments:

  1. I don't see why so many people hate this movie, it is really good and I gave it the same rating you did for similar reasons. I don't see why people think Jessica Chastain did not deserve her Oscar nomination for this because she was wonderful and although Octavia Spencer has a lock on the award, she deserved her nomination nonetheless. I also found this to be a good movie visually. Glad I found someone that agrees with me. Brilliant review!

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  2. Thanks for reading! I am glad you agree also.

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  3. Great review! Loved the movie so much, especially the cinematography and Chastain's performance. It's too bad Bryce Dallas Howard is not getting more recognition for it, btw, she was fantastic as Hilly.

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  4. This is a film that I'll get around to seeing eventually; does not look like anything great to me, though; just good, at best. But you never know, I might be in for a surprise.

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  5. Great review! Although I felt it was a bit too Disney-ish to truly convey the brutality of racism in the '50s and '60s, I do agree that it was a very compelling drama filled with many memorable characters.

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  6. Appalling, entertaining, touching and perhaps even a bit healing, The Help is an old-fashioned grand yarn of a film, the sort we rarely get these days. Good review.

    ReplyDelete

 

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