16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
I haven't seen a film like this for a long time,
This review is from: The Help [DVD] (DVD)
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.