Directed by Tate Taylor
Starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer
Set in 1960s Jackson Mississippi, The Help is the story of two black maids, Aibileen and Minny, who join the civil rights movement with the leadership of young writer Skeeter. She interviews the maids in secret and then writes a book from the point of view of the help about the shocking way white families treat their employees. It’s a moving story that shows how courage and doing the right thing can overcome outrageous prejudice and inequality.
In most aspects, The Help is an excellent film. You’d struggle to find a better array of actresses who each bring something different to the table. Minny (Spencer) provides the humour in the form of mischief and tantrums. The heart of the movie is Viola Davis as the wise mother figure Aibileen. Some of the most powerful scenes come from her relationship with a white baby, Mae Mobley, and we see how she looks after the child better than her own mother can. Jessica Chastain's character, Celia, literally lights up the screen with her bubbly personality. As one of the few genuinely good women, she is terribly sweet, endearing and a pleasure to watch. It seems to us that Emma Stone’s acting has been overlooked in the nominations this year as her sparky portrayal of Skeeter is the glue that holds the piece together. The attention to historic detail is evident in the set and costume design which look beautiful and visually stunning.
However there are flaws. Other than being half an hour too long, as a viewer it can be hard to believe these characters as real people. The mean women are unbelievably nasty whereas the good characters seem too good to be true. Although a film would be nothing without the villains and heroines, the characters do seem to come across like caricatures and you wonder how the attitudes of all these people bought up in the same environment can vary so greatly. As well as this, it is a shame that strong and powerful ladies such as Aibileen and Minny need a white girl to stand up for them and they mound an incredible amount of gratitude upon her for doing what is right
With all that said, despite the flaws, The Help is a great film. The acting is superb, it’s funny, powerful and massively moving. If you want to watch an instantly likable film, that is really well made and simply portrays a period of historic significance: The Help in definitely for you. Just keep some tissues handy!