Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer & Viola Davis
Kathryn Stockett’s novel about African American maids and the white families they work for, is heavy, but worth the weight.
It opened today (Aug. 10) and is on course to gross $5 million on its first day in theaters.
The beloved novel, set in early-1960s Jackson, Mississippi, focuses on the relationship of ‘The Help’ and the white families they work for.
While ‘The Help’ can clean their homes, their clothes, raise their babies and cook their food, the movie highlights how maids in the south in the 60s were still mistreated, disrespected and looked upon as the underclass. Although this movie doesn’t reveal anything new from that era, it points out how whites really felt about the black women who spent more time in their homes raising their children - than in their own homes.
And, although they were involved in almost every aspect of a white families home - they were forbidden to touch white people (except for their children) or to use the family’s bathrooms.
The movie is poignant and funny as the maids tell how they really feel about white people and specifically the families they work for. Some of it is harsh, but it’s a chance for the women to speak their truth. Speaking the truth, during that time could have gotten the women jailed, beaten or worse yet, killed because racial tensions were high during the civil rights movement.
‘The Help’ is an easy look at the issues that surrounded the volatile climate of the civil rights movement. The south was relentless in its disdain for ‘coloreds’ at the time. The movie, however, plays it safe in its presentation.
To its credit, The Help boasts an exceptional cast.
Viola Davis plays Aibileen, an impassive maid. A sturdy actress, Davis, already an Academy Award nominee, could possibly get yet another nod. She has already mastered diving in head first to present three-dimensional characters. Davis is always effective as she infuses her characters with a spirit and a soul.
Viola Davis & Bryce Dallas Howard
Octavia Spencer, nearly steals the film as Minny, the take-no-stuff maid. She clearly provides comic relief and a feistiness that also proves to be a form of bravery. She actually has the best storyline in the film.
She too, could quite possibly get an Academy nod in the supporting actress category with her expressive face and impeccable comedic timing.
Davis and Spencer play maids who agree to tell their stories to a young white journalist, “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone), who wants to write a book from the maids points of view.
Cicely Tyson is spectacular as a maid named Constantine. Bryce Dallas Howard rocks as Hilly, an uptight society girl, while Sissy Spacek brings on the funny as her mother. Howard is a delicious villain and Spacek and Allison Janney give fabulous supporting turns.
Stone’s Skeeter is a ballsy college student turned writer, who wanted to write a firsthand account of the maid/family relationship as seen through the eyes of the maid. Not to draw attention to herself or the maids, who would surely lose their jobs if they are found out, Skeeter starts secretly interviewing the two brave maids about their experiences. After a racial incident in the town more maids come forward to share their stories.
This is one of the best movies of the year!!!
The Help (Walt Disney Pictures), directed by Tate Taylor, is rated PG-13. Running time: 146 min.
On the DONLOE Scale, The Help gets an E (excellent).
The Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent).