The Help - A Compelling Story With Amazing Female Ensemble

                          They answered doors, cooked and served meals, changed diapers and raised children for parents who were, supposedly, too busy to bother. They lived in their houses as a invisible creature and mostly ignored , except when they were scrutinized by their bosses like a thief. Most of all, they had separate toilets, because the owners said, “They carry different diseases than we do.”  Now who are 'they'? Did 'they' refers to people, who lived in a barbaric place, which treats people like slaves?

                          Well, 'they' lived in a great civilized country in the world. Welcome to Jackson, Mississippi, USA, in 1963, a place where African-American maids work in the homes of white women. Most of them are treated shamefully and are forced to listen to derogatory remarks about their race. What is forgotten is the patience, loyalty, and tender loving care the maids give to the often neglected children of their employers. An inspirational, all-female drama, "The Help(2011)" based on the Kathryn Stockett's powerful novel is full of emotions with equal parts of crowd-pleasing joy and shattering, complex pain.

    Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone), a recent graduate and still single, is the rebel in the circle of Southern women she grew up with, despite being a member of the bridge club and Junior League. The ring-leader of this group of married women is Miss Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard), a housewife who believes in the righteousness of segregation and campaigns among whites to install separate toilets for their maids.                          
                    When Skeeter approaches Aibileen about being interviewed for a book told from the maids’ point of view, she is understandably wary. After all, Jackson is a small enough place that she could suffer seriously if it were discovered that she was talking about her white employers. 

                     Nonetheless, Skeeter sparks an interest from two local maids. Aibileen (Viola Davis) is tormented every day by the unjust death of her son, whom she spent less time with than the children of the white families who employed her. She understands the seeming futility of her suppressed life and it eats away at her. Minny (Octavia Spencer) is equally weathered and wise but with a fiery demeanor that leads to her being fired by the cruel Hilly. The film from here is too good to spoil, which stirs your emotions.

        The "Help"  is an unlikely place to discover a good screen villain. She is Hilly Holbrook, a chatty racist played to perfection by Bryce Dallas Howard with a mix of charm and ice-cold sadism. Emma Stone continues to prove that she is one of the most charming and intelligent young actresses currently working, and she makes Skeeter a complex, intriguing character. 

                     But it’s Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer as stoic, long-suffering Aibileen and, outspoken Minny who give the story its heart. Davis balances the movie and brings appropriate soul to the character Aibileen. Octavia Spencer,  has a wonderfully disarming sense of humor and spirit that constantly verges on, but never quite slips into, caricature.It's no wonder she won the female supporting actor Oscar.

                      This is only Taylor’s second feature film, and at times it shows. Even at two and a half hours in length, Taylor has to give short confession to a number of subplots that probably should have been removed completely. This is particularly true of Skeeter’s up-and-down romantic relationship with Stuart Whitworth (Chris Lowell), who changes so dramatically from scene to scene. Of course, it is hard to adapt a book, which is close to 500 pages and with great number of subplots. However, Taylor displays a sure hand in directing the actors.

                       “The Help” is set in a distant period, far away. It would be ludicrous to claim that things have not changed for black people in America. Somehow or other they apparently elected an African-American president. But, 'Help' is a invitation to look closely at contemporary attitudes and contemporary inequality, and not to feel too superior to the dark past. Stockett herself was not born until 1969, and drew on her own experiences being raised by African-American women who worked for her parents in the ’70s and ’80s. 

                          There might, perhaps, be a harsher, uglier version of The Help, one in which the camera doesn't cut away from violence, or in which the consequences of actions were much bleaker. However, there is no version that could more affectingly convey the depth of emotion, the sting of prejudice, the truth of weak humanity other than this one.

                          The Help is not a painful movie, it is one that should inspire some thought and reflection. Mostly it's a stirring salute to repressed women who hold their heads high.



Balcony Row said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm always looking for films to watch. This one will be on my list :)

My latest review -

Share your thoughts.


Prasoon Khare said...

Looks like a good movie. Didn't know about it. Glad that you shared

KitchenKarma said...

Awesome review, now I want to watch this movie!

Arun Kumar said...

@Mansi, Thank you for visiting and do watch the movie

@Prasoon, Thank you. It's really a good movie.

@Suchi, Thanks for the comment. Watch the movie and give your opinion.

indu chhibber said...

Excellent review-it tempts one to watch this sensitive movie.

Arun Kumar said...

@indu, Thanks for your comment.

Obsessivemom said...

Hey there Arun.. read the book some time back and completely loved it. I've heard a lot about the film.. that it's quite like the book. Seems like it's a good watch. Must catch it. Thanks for the review.

Unknown said...

I have been wanting to see this for sometime .. thanks for the lovely review .. will surely watch the movie tonight

Arun Kumar said...

@Obsessivemom, Thanks for the comment. I read the book and loved it too, and do watch the movie.

@Sangeeta Reghu Nair, Thanks for your comment. Give ur opinion after watching the movie.

Mak said...

Hey Arun, nice review.

Octavia specers did deserve an oscar for her performance.

The movie gets boring at some point though.

Arun Kumar said...

@Mak, Thanks for your comment. Since I read the novel first, i didn't find it boring. But for others, movie might look a bit dragging.