18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
So hard to find good help these days,
This review is from: Help [Blu-ray]  [US Import] (Blu-ray)The Help is a maid for Oscar story of Mississippi maids set in 1963 based on the literary phenomenon. There is no black president. There is no daughter and granddaughter of a maid who has had a talk show for 25 years. Now is the time to go deep into the south, to peer through the bent back tulips, to see how the other half lives, to explore the life of the black maid against the burgeoning backdrop of the civil rights movement.
Life is not fair if you are a black maid. Some people say fair is foul and foul is fair. Some will not just say it, but prove it.
Eugenia aka Skeeter personifies the progressive educated female. Well traveled, broad minded, she hopes to become a writer in New York. Returning to Jackson she discovers that her maid from childhood has mysteriously disappeared.
Hilly Holbrook, the antagonist, childhood friend of Sketer, queen bee housewife personifies the status quo, with her bouffed up sprayed in place hair, and a WITCH (Woman In Total Control of Herself) glint in her eye, she campaigns for a law requiring people with home help to build an additional toilet for the help only, the Home Health Sanitation Initiative. She proclaims that she promotes 'separate but equal,' and warns her friend Skeeter that there are 'real racists' in this town. If everyone is equal then why do they need to be separate?
She will find a suitable match for her friend Skeeter.
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer play long suffering maids Aibileen and mouthy Minny respectively. One embittered, tragic, looks Oprahesque, the other sassy.
The toilet becomes a recurring symbol, metaphor, inciting incident, turning point. Other symbols include the maid uniform, the bus, pies, the ring, Crisco, and grits.
So the sweltering summer of our discontent may become glorious Autumn with this story of suffering maids, and their condition may be made better by writing an anonymous tell all book. It may also be maide worse.
Minny caught short during a severe storm insistently asks to use the house bathroom. Hilly refuses. She goes. The WITCH, boiling with anger, bangs on the door. The maid without peeing insolently flushes the toilet to get under her bosses skin. The narrator says: 18 people died in that storm, 10 white, 8 black.
When Aibileen tells her tragic story I could feel emotion welling in my chest and while remaining in the moment was transported to Oscar night, where they show the scene from the movie. When Skeeter (Emma Stone)did her monologue, I had a similar somewhat intense experience. It takes great talent to evoke that kind of response.
Rarely do you get such a strong ensemble with a mostly female cast, with such well written acting roles. The movie Doubt also starring Viola Davis, got four Oscar nominations for acting, and I expect this movie will get several acting nominations including a second nomination for her, perhaps victory this time.
While I loved how these relationships worked, and how the movie plays on our emotions it has story weaknesses. Specifically, the lack of a strong inciting incident. The story could have been strengthened if Medgar Evers was a character. As he lived in Jackson at the time, how difficult would it be to have one or two scenes with him in it, and then we would be much more emotionally involved in the real life event of his assassination by a 'real' racist.
Shortly after watching this I watched In the Heat of the Night, and Gran Torino, which I consider a masterpiece, although it's politically incorrect, and therefore did not win any Oscars. It had to settle for being hugely popular. While both explore racial tension and explicit racism through a masculine lens, The Help explores a more shaded implicit racism of denial through a feminine lens. The covert racism of going along to get along, bowing to peer pressure, not daring to risk punishment by social exclusion.
If you're like me you may wonder how it is relevant to today, when we have Obama in the White House, Oprah in our living rooms, and Beyonce topping the charts. Racism still exists, except that nowadays we are very polite about it, we may even be in denial about it like Hilly. She refuses her maid a loan, hires and fires maids left, right and center, yet raises money for children in Africa. She says separate but equal, but does not mean equal. If a landlord says to someone I won't rent you a house becuse you can't afford it, or because I have already rented it, or your credit is not strong enough, he may mean something else entirely.
Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly impressed me greatly. Her gleeful wicked witch of the West meets Cruella De Ville performance, at first deceptively inconsequential builds throughout the movie, reaching an impressive crescendo.
Minny wants equality, yet when Celia Foote sits at her table, and treats her like an equal, her conditioning kicks in and she asks her to sit elsewhere. I liked that her character was more active.
Emma Stone could get an Oscar nom. She is a crusader, and does battle adversity but she is not the subject of adversity, and does not have a dog in the fight. The stakes are less serious for her.
I liked Celia Foote played by Jessica Chastain, as poor white trash married into money. She has no understanding of the social norms, and status, because she apparently was raised on Mars. She has a Jayne Mansfield body.
I feel pretty certain that The Help will be nominated for best picture, and the issue of race relations has been well favored in the past. The movie Crash, won with a similar theme. What will prevent if from winning is that though it is popular it takes no risks, also it presents the issue in a comedic way. From a masculine point of view, I yearned for a major events and turning points, for some crash bang wallop, but that desire was left unfulfilled.
Each year Oscars get awarded for mostly two types of roles:
1. A person battling adversity, mental illness, social discrimination, physical or mental handicap of some kind, the underdog. A stuttering king, as in Colin Firth, a mentally ill ballerina as in Natalie Portman, a crusader as in Sandra Bullock, or Hilary Swank, or Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich.
2. The psychopath sociopath. Anthony Hopkins Silence of the Lambs, Kate Winslet in The Reader. Angelina Jolie as a sociopathic mental in Life interrupted. Charlize Theron as serial killer.
If you like The Help, I recommend you see The Debt, a brilliant suspense thriller also starring Jessica Chastain, with Helen Mirren. If you are like me, I think you will be amazed at how talented JC is in a leading role. It's my favorite movie of the 60 or so I have seen this year. She also plays the lead actress in The Tree of Life.
If you do decide to get The Help, I recommend you also consider Gran Torino, Mississippi Burning, In the Heat of the night, or even th Oscar winning Crash, because all have similar themes with some crash bang wallop. The Help offers a unique perspective, and ultimately is both heartwarming and entertaining.
Post Awards Update. The Help did secure an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and nominations for Octavia Spenser, Viola Davis and Jessica Chastain. Octavia Spenser won. Viola Davis won the Golden Globe for her performance.
I hope you found this review helpful, and I think you will enjoy the movie.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Dec 2011 11:03:56 GMT
Please note well; a review is NOT a scene-by-scene, give-the-plot-away, ruin-it-for-any-future-viewers write up.
In reply to an earlier post on 28 Feb 2012 05:18:41 GMT
Last edited by the author on 28 Feb 2012 09:08:48 GMT
L. Power says:
Much more happens in the movie than is described in this review. The bathroom scene for example is in the trailer.
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