The Help (2011)
Director: Tate Taylor
Writer: Tate Taylor
Based On: “The Help” (Novel) By: Kathryn Stockett
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer. Bryce Dallas Howard, Mike Vogel, Allison Janney, Chris Lowell, Jessica Chastain, Sissy Spacek
Country: USA, India, United Arab Emirates
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Time: 146 minutes
USA Release: 8/10/2011
On DVD (USA): 12/6/2011
Awards: 1 Academy Award Win, 3 Academy Award Nominations, 1 BAFTA Award Win, 4 BAFTA Award Nominations, 1 Golden Globe Win, 4 Golden Globe Nominations
In a year of many sequels and superhero movies, “The Help” comes along at just the right time to deliver one of the best movies of the year and also the summer. With a cast of extremely strong performances, I wouldn’t doubt that this will gather some Oscar buzz. As we take a trip back to the days of coke being in a glass bottles and music played on a records, let’s sit back and enjoy this delightful treat that will not only educate you but warm your heart.
“The Help” follows three strong and independent women, who’s lives become intertwined when they decide to write a book. Taking place in the early 1960’s we meet Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone), she has just moved back to Jackson after graduating from the University of Mississippi and soon gets a job at the local newspaper. The other two women telling their story in this are Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) both of whom work for friends of Skeeter. After Skeeter learns of Hilly Holbrook’s (Bryce Dallas Howard) attempt at passing a bill so that the help must have their own separate bathroom, she begin to wonder how the women who really raise the children of many of the families in Jackson feel not only about that, but about what it really is to be them. With the help of Aibileen and Minny, they start to work on getting their stories told.
Like I said earlier “The Help” is an extremely delightful and genuine film. Tate Taylor who not only directed this but also wrote the adaptation helped capture the time period well, and invoked what it felt like to live during that time. Although I haven’t read the novel at the time of writing this, I felt that the adaptation must have held true to the book, because I have yet to hear anyone I know say other wise. The story is very moving, with great rushes of emotion that are balanced just right between the comedy and drama. Although this is a drama for the most part, there are still plenty of comedic moments within to keep it fun and not too serious. There is never a dull moment in this film, between the story and the soundtrack you will really be taken back to that era. Made up of both a beautifully arranged score done by Thomas Newman and a mix of many great songs from the period. Together they intertwined giving us some great music to listen to. Featured on the soundtrack were songs by Johnny Cash, Frankie Valli, Bo Diddley, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan among others, and also had a new song by Mary J. Blige, which worked as the movies theme. As for the supporting cast which was made up of some of today’s best actors like Sissy Spacek, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Chris Lowell, Mike Vogel, Mary Steenburge and Cicely Tyson. All of them together did a superb job in their roles, especially Spacek, Chastain and Janney. Sissy Spacek who played Mrs. Walters or Hilly’s mother was one of the comic relief in this, playing a character that at times seems batty but is actually still together in the brain. Jessica Chastain played Celia Foote, although she is naïve, she is a very kind and caring person. Unfortunately after being outcast by Hilly and her friends, she is left to becoming a better wife, which is something she really wants to learn, and later shows she has a lot more to offer. And Allison Janney, she played Charlotte Phelan or Skeeter’s mother, and even though her character presents herself to others as someone who only sees the help as only what they are, she actually cares for them and considers them friends and family. Although that is shadowed by certain events we see who she truly is as she sticks up for not only her family but for her daughter.
Onto the main cast, like that of the supporting, they all do a fantastic job and stick out in their respected roles. Emma Stone as always shines, playing Skeeter with much determination and focus as the character itself embodies. The character is a strong and very independent woman, which during that time was an uncommon thing. In this like in her other roles, you just fall in love with each roles she plays, and her likeability is at an all time high in this. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Hilly who is a very mean and ruthless woman. She is determined to make Jackson the way she feels it should be and she doesn’t care who gets in her way. Howard, like her father (Ron Howard) has great presence onscreen and although we hate her character we just get swept up by her acting which is rich and full. Viola Davis again delivers another great performance that might make her Oscar bait yet again. Her character has a lot of sadness and with that she hopes that one day things will be different. Until then she takes all of the stress and cold-heartedness that comes with her job. And with the help of Skeeter, she helps show everyone, what comes with working as the help. A very strong performance that even has some buoyant moments. Now last but definitely not the least is Octavia Spencer, although up until now she has been pretty much unknown to most, but some including myself have been waiting for her talents to finally be shown. Until the past year or two, Spencer has played very small roles in various movies, but even with that like in “The Help” she make her presence known with her witty and sassy lines. She has impeccable comedic timing and uses her face and personality to really sell the lines. In this she plays Minnie, she doesn’t take things lying down, she will follow your instructions but if you tick her off, she will go off. Although she is sassy, she is a very kind and compassionate person, who given the opportunity can show you everything she really is. Spencer delivers not only a funny and feisty performance but also a very profound one. I hope the Academy recognizes her this year as she greatly deserves it with her scene stealing performance.
To sum up, “The Help” is a movie that everyone will love. With it’s inspiring and persevering story, along with it’s extremely wonderfully cast, it will leave you with a smile on your face, and like me wanting to run out and buy the book (if you haven’t already). This is a can’t miss summer movie, so take your friends, family or just anyone who wants to go and enjoy this amazing story, and one of the best films of the year.