Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett and set in the early 1960's,
Emma "soon to be filing a restraining order against a certain husky
movie critic" Stone stars as Skeeter - a recent college grad returning
back home to Jackson, MS to take a job at the local newspaper. While
her current gig has her writing homemaking advice, Skeeter has come
across something more substantial that could be her ticket to the big
All of her friends have grown into the stereotypical, well-to-do
Southern housewives who lunch, belong to social clubs and have
African-American domestic help who raise the kids and take care of the
homes (we should be lucky Bravo did not exist and we weren't subject to
Real Housewives of Jackson). However, Skeeter's pal, Hilly (Bryce
Dallas Howard), has started a campaign to force all homeowners to build
separate, outdoor bathroom facilities for the help.
As you can imagine, this is the final straw for many, including
Aibileen (Viola Davis), who decides to help Skeeter write her book
about the way the women who work in the homes in Jackson are treated.
Will Aibileen and Skeeter be able to put together enough material to
write an entire book?
What will happen if someone finds out about the book?
At first glance, The Help looks like a cartoonish, out of
touch, much too lighthearted look at a very serious subject, but
writer/director Tate Taylor mostly finds the right tone to make The
Help a better movie than you might think it is.
Most of this is because of the fabulous cast. Davis is fantastic as she
shares with us Aibileen's strength and wisdom, which often must be
tempered by fear of reprisal and violence she knows too well. Just when
you think the movie might be losing sight of how dangerous the
situation is, Davis brings us back to reality and knows how to connect
with the audience, so we better understand her plight, as well as her
life's highs and lows.
Then, Howard is better than I have ever seen before as the delightful
appearing, but phony, nasty, bigoted woman who always has some sort of
dagger hiding behind the smile. She picks all of the right moments to
show Hilly's hatred and ignorance as she makes the character into a
retro-Mean Girl without being overbearing or tiresome.
Meanwhile, Taylor does a strong job handling all of the various
subplots, but sometimes takes the tone in the direction of goofy when
it isn't needed, which makes The Help too cutesy at times.
While the biggest theme of the movie is about race relations and
prejudice, Taylor often makes the subplots about relationships between
the various characters much more compelling and emotional, especially
as we watch actors Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain make secondary
characters into scene stealers.
The Help was a pleasant surprise for the husky
movie critic who was fearing the worst.
The Help is rated PG-13 for thematic material
(and, even though it is not included in the official rating, some