The Help

I just finished watching The Help, a film released earlier this year. I’d heard a lot of buzz about it but knew very little about the details. That was on purpose. I prefer to go into movies cold, without other’s opinions clouding my judgment or preconceived notions about whether the movie is good or bad. This one caught me somewhat by surprise, despite its high box office results this summer.

A film about women who succeeded in their “careers” if they remained virtually invisible, here their stories are brought to the forefront, stories about, and by, The Help. I won’t spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t seen this movie and may somehow have happened upon these words. Suffice it to say I enjoyed it.

The story takes place in Mississippi in 1963, a time and place where race relations were building to a boiling point, where they needed to be. The story of The Help is not one about the civil rights movement from afar, however. The movement is more of a back-drop in the film. In fact, in that regard, the film plays it safe, perhaps it’s biggest flaw. Instead, The Help tells personal stories of women in the volatile landscapes of the homes they work in. It is a story about relationships. The women in this film are all intelligent and capable. They are women of wisdom. Women of pride. Women of hatred. Women of kindness. Women of loyalty. And their stories are of broken hearts, survival and family – real family, not a matter of genes.

There’s much to like about The Help. Among them are several really good performances. In no particular order – Viola Davis, whose performance in Doubt earned her an Academy Award nomination should not be surprised if she gets another for her portrayal of Aibileen Clark. She is great. Emma Stone as Skeeter and Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly are very good as well, but Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote is a standout as is Octavia Spencer who plays my favorite character in the film, Minny Jackson. I was not familiar with the work of these actresses before seeing The Help but now I look forward to seeing more of them. Another acting mention must go to Allison Janney. Ms. Janney plays a supporting character in the movie but several of her scenes cut right through the heart – or, through mine, anyway, as I found myself weeping several times. I can go on – it’s a note-worthy ensemble cast.

I suppose I should at least mention Tate Taylor who wrote the screenplay and directed the film. Having never heard of Tate Taylor before watching The Help, I will certainly remember him now. He did great work here. So there it is. His work and I loved it. Bottom line – if you’ve not taken the time to watch this film, do so. In the end, when the film concludes, you are moved. What more can you ask for?

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