on 1 December 2011
When I was invited to a preview screening of The Help earlier in the year, I was unsure of what to expect. This may be easier to understand when one takes into consideration that Walt Disney Studios are responsible for the distribution of a film that is targeted at the older woman, the single hardest demographic to coax into cinema screens presently. Having read the book, (read review here) I knew the director had a lot to prove. As a fan I was wary yet excited at the evolution of this great book and the reception it's had worldwide. It is an unfortunate truth that Hollywood rarely makes the most of the projects it gets it's hands on, in terms of quality at least thus, the concern for an international bestseller making its way into the lap of Disney is an obvious worry.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. The film is a well-constructed piece that remains loyal to Stockett's text and demonstrates the fear, discrimination and seething hatred that seems to have been so apparent during the 1960's of KKK riddled Jackson, Mississippi in a clear and poignant way. In contrast to other reviewers critiques, I did not find the film overly sentimental or sappy by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, Tate Taylor is to be credited for the realism he has managed to instill in the direction and in the screenplay, which he adopted from Stockett's text. For me, there were several outstanding performances, especially Octavia Spencer as outspoken Minny Jackson, the maid who rises above her many unfortunate choices in employer.
See full review here: [...]
on 24 April 2012
This film version of the book is well acted and well produced, and overall does justice to the original, despite the insertion towards the end of some scenes not in the book. These scenes tend to soften the narrative towards slight sentimentality, but they do not mar the bitter-sweet ending.
on 30 August 2012
I realise these reviews should be about the actual DVD and it's contents, but I'm afraid my review is purely about the film. Should you buy it? Yes.
Not many films come along these days that truly move you. I'd heard whisperings about this film, saw it had some recognition at the Oscars, but didn't really hear what it was about. It's one of those topics that could be heavy going and very contentious. This film canters along letting the story unwind effortlessly, drawing us in to characters we come to know without the usual setting-out that seems to take up the first hour of every movie these days.
The story you probably already know; it's 1960s America, and in Jackson, Mississippi, it is rife with unashamed racism. Killings in the street are commonplace, and the black community are treated with contempt and disgust. A young lady (Skeeter/Eugenia - Emma Stone) returns to her home to pursue a writing career, having graduated from Ole Miss university. Things have changed; her mother has cancer, and her black maid Constantine, who practically raised her and worked for the family for years, has left without saying goodbye. Skeeter obtains a job at the local newspaper and is happy to accept whatever is going - pretending to be a usual well-known columnist giving domestic advice, such as cleaning, cooking etc. Skeeter is not like most of the other Jackson residents; she is not affected by racist views and positively adored her household's maid Constantine, so she seeks some advice from one of 'the help', Aibeline. Aibeline is the maid for her old friend Hilly Holbrook, who is the leader of the next round of young housewives raising their families in Jackson, and a nasty piece of work. After witnessing how her friends back home treat 'the help', Skeeter talks to Aibeline more and more, gathering her opinions and stories on life as a maid. Soon Aibeline's outspoken friend Minny joins them, though initially after some resistance. For black folk to be speaking out about their lives, and how their white employers make them miserable, was an act that could have serious repercussions - jail, or worse. Skeeter decides to get these stories into a book and send it to a publisher in New York. The publisher likes the stories, but needs more, from many more maids, and soon if Skeeter wanted a chance for the book to be published, before this 'civil rights thing blows over'. Will Skeeter get the stories she needs from the maids, despite her circle of 'friends' becoming suspicious at her apparent non-disgust for the black community?
There are many facets in this film which keep you interested. Skeeter's relationship with her mother; her outward appearance once she gets a boyfriend; the maid's relationship with their employers, their employers' children, and themselves; those that are white but come from a different class background to the majority, and so on. All of this is done without feeling forced, but with a gentle flow that keeps you engaged throughout.
At no point did I find myself looking for the time or guessing exactly what would happen. At a certain point in the film I had a feeling of impending dread that did not dissipate until the credits rolled, such was the film's ability to jump from one emotional scenario to the other.
I defy anyone not to well up at the scene of why Constantine left, or how the maids come to feel free through the pride in their work and success - which is the book in which they have written and produced themselves anonymously, The Help.
You have to admire the characters, and how well they are conveyed; the accents and dialogue, and the comedic moments which really do shine through interspersed with the feelings of hopelessness and shame. Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for her role as Minny Jackson, whilst Viola Davis and Jessica Chastain were also nominated for Aibeline and Celia Foote. This whole film could have run away with it were it not for The Iron Lady, which is also a good film. Do not hesitate, at this price add this film to your collection and drink in the amazing performances.
"The Help" on which the film is based is a page-turner with its skilful coverage of human resilience and the sowing of the seeds of rebellion as prejudice begins to crack in 1960s Mississippi, told through the viewpoint of two black maids, Aibileen and Minnie, and Skeeter, an idealistic but naive young white woman with ambitions to become a writer.
In the film, a strong cast of actors bring to life the key characters in the book. Aibileen is the narrator, compassionate and shrewd beneath her subservient air, until writing about her experiences as a general dogsbody and nanny for a succession of white children finally releases her into a sense of freedom. Then there is Minnie, a brilliant cook, but unable to hold down a job because of her feisty talk - yet she allows herself to be beaten by her drunken husband. The villain of the piece is the ghastly, control-freak Hilly, who rules her simpering white "friends" with a rod of iron, with the power to destroy the livelihoods of black servants (not merely her own!) who displease her.
The film version of "The Help" is true to the essentials of the original in that it is a chastening reminder of the casual prejudice of the American South as recently as the 1960s, and is often very moving, yet the poignancy is leavened with a good deal of humour. In view of the complexity of the book's plot, it has been necessary to leave out or compress many details - thankfully not the scene of Minnie trying to hoover the dust off a huge stuffed grizzly bear in an old colonial house. These omissions tend to be disappointing if you have read the book before seeing the film. In particular, I would have liked more of the very moving tales which the maids have to tell.
The film finds time to show not just the main theme of the humiliation and unjust treatment of black Americans but also the discrimination against young white women, who are expected to have no ambition above hooking a man. Skeeter is hired by the local newspaper, but only to write a column on cleaning!
I found some of the black maids' dialogues hard to follow, which is a pity as in the book they are often very funny and full of insight.
Perhaps the film's ending is a touch too sentimental and neatly "sown up", some of the subtle depth of the original has been lost, but overall it is worth seeing.
on 28 November 2011
I watched this film whilst flying from the UK to the US last week [November 2011]. I found it completely absorbing, convincingly portrayed by the cast and moving to the point of tears. I watched; I listened; I saw; I heard; I laughed; I cried. A life-changing film. First class!
on 2 December 2011
Was at the cinema yesterday and had a great experience with this film. Loved it so much - lots of laughter as well as tears - very emotional and lovely and it was entertaining through all two and a half hours. People laughed out loud and you could hear sniffling in the emotional parts. The actors acted so well and the filming was wonderful and the music so underlined the era and the story from the original book was followed as expected, altogether making it a memorable evening with colleagues. I will definitively watch it at least one more time - to get all the details and enjoy the film all over.
on 21 May 2012
I was determined to read the book first, and was glad that I did. The book was truly absorbing, fascinating, and with all the emotions. I had the film before I read the book, and watching the film brought the book to life. The acting was beautiful, and captivating. Enjoyed every minute of both the book and film, and highly recommend both. Great experience altogether.
on 26 March 2012
Mississippi Burning was criticised by some for portraying heroic white people saving poor defenceless black folks, as if the African-American community lacked the fight. History tells us otherwise, but The Help resurrects the notion that positive change only comes about because of a liberal white woman leading the black 'slaves' to freedom. But that's OK. I suspect the African-American community in the States is far too mature and self-confident to worry about such minor details, especially given the heart-warming underbelly throughout the film and fine performances from a terrific cast.
I simply adored this film. The acting was extraordinary and the entangled tragedy and humour from the original book is beautifully balanced. It's hard to single out any particular actress as all the performances were rock solid, but Viola Davies as Aibileen gives us a beautifully crafted understated role of Oscar winning proportions. Octavia Spencer playing Minnie is sublime and I am sure Bryce Dallas Howard had a lot fun playing the bitch from hell, Hilly Holbrook.
I watched the film with my nine year old daughter and she cried all the way through and I must admit I fought back the tears at the end. Sad as the story is I felt uplifted and alive as the closing credits came on and not many films can do that for you. A real treat.
on 24 November 2012
Read the book first, never thought the dvd would match up as good, it was fantastic , need to really get into it at begining, then its hidden gems are there, The history of those times needs to be told & retold, great acting, but the twists pure belly laughs for me, not many films I could watch again but this one yes just to catch all the lines. magic.
on 17 April 2014
What an incredible film! With strong performances from the leads, this is such a powerful, intelligent film. One young woman who feels for the way the maids are treated starts a secret project and tries to encourage them to share their stories. Running parallel is the experience of 'white trash' newly married Celia who exposes a different type of prejudice. Moving, harrowing and ultimately uplifting, I don't mind admitting I shed a few tears and can't recommend it highly enough. I will go on to the read the book on which this based.
One thing that stuck with me how prejudice is still very around today, albeit it in slightly different forms. The film really makes you think, and not many films do that nowadays.