Running Time: 146 minutes
Starring: Emma Stone, Sissy Spacek, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney
Directed By: Tate Taylor
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
An aspiring writer is trying to get a book published on the African American maids that work in her community during the civil rights movement.
About a year ago I heard a bunch of different people talking about a person named Skeeter on the subway. I was wondering why all the fuss over the obnoxious journalist from Harry Potter. What I soon found out was a book called the Help was the biggest literary fad of the moment. From there it was only a natural progression to turn one of North America’s hottest books into a full length feature film. The Help is the story of an aspiring white writer during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. She decides to write a book from the African American maid’s point of view leading to some interesting problems.
I haven’t read the book this film is based on so I don’t know if this film does it justice but it was a good watch. Most people will like this film for its touching story and for its appealing characters. The film starts and the viewer is instantly treated to the maids as they go about their work as second class citizens. The films tone is set by things like separate bathrooms for the African American maids, disparaging remarks about the maids while they are still in the room, riding at the back of the bus and so on and so forth. The film follows Skeeter who is an aspiring writer. The first subject of her book is a maid named Aibileen. Skeeter is writing a book about the maid’s point of view in serving the white folk of the county. Aibileen is a strong woman who goes against her better judgment and provides her thoughts and experiences for the book. It takes strong people on both sides of a touchy subject to enact change and that is why this movie is so good. Skeeter is shunned for her unpopular dealings with the help and Aibileen could not only lose her job for her stories but also her life. The struggle to get the truth out about the maid’s deplorable working conditions will bring out a few tears from the viewer.
The story is good but the characters and more importantly the acting is what makes this movie special. Skeeter is played by Emma Stone and she is good as the lead. She is able to drive the story as a tom boyish woman with strong convictions. Her supporting cast is great though. The maid Aibileen played by Viola Davis and the maid Minny played by Octavia Spencer steal the show in this. Davis plays her character as a serious woman but with strong emotion. Spencer is more of the comedic and sassy character and either of them could have taken best supporting actress for their work. Not to be forgotten is the evil woman of the film called Hilly Holbrook. She is played by Bryce Dallas Howard and without this malicious and ignorant character the film never would have worked as well as it did. Howard’s smug performance was perfect and I couldn’t picture anyone else in that role. Lastly a special mention goes out to Jessica Chastain playing Celia Foote. A lot of people could have pulled this role off but she was great as a shunned woman in the community.
The film carries along and the viewer will be captivated by how the maids deal with bigotry and mistreatment. The viewer will also be captivated by the power of love as not all people are hate mongers. The film is obviously quite serious but the odd thrown in joke or funny situation can lighten the mood. Simple things like the maids discussing their boss’s dirty laundry are funny scenes without being cheesy. The maids care about the white children they look after while their own children have to fend for themselves at home. Will Skeeter’s book be published about racism and unfair practices? I obviously won’t tell you but the film is well worth watching to find out.
Virtually unknown director Tate Taylor takes a controversial subject and delivers a very veteran looking finished product. The casting is spot on and the story spends the perfect amount of time on each character. The touching story of love in the face of oppression will touch most viewers hearts and the film never was slow. Overall I felt he did a great job delivering a topic that a lot of people could have gotten wrong.
I give this film a recommendation especially to people who appreciate films for the acting.
T Factor + If you read the book this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you don’t like slow moving dramas than this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Remember the Titans, North Country