Top positive review
A powerful film
on 30 January 2015
After graduating from college, Eugenia (Skeeter) Phelan (Emma Stone) returns to her home town of Jackson, Mississippi and is shocked to find that Constantine the black maid for worked for her family for many years and practically raised her, has left without saying goodbye.
Whereas the rest of her friends went to college to find husbands, Skeeter remains single and completes a degree in journalism. In order to pursue her ambition to become a writer she gets a job writing a domestic column for a local newspaper. In order to find material to include she sets about taking tips from the black maids who work in the town (known as 'the help').
Prompted both by her conversations with the help and her bewilderment as to Constantine's departure, Skeeter begins to notice the poor treatment and racist behaviour white families show towards the black maids they employ. Although the Black Civil Rights Movement is growing, racism and racial segregation remain rife and unchallenged in Jackson. Amongst the worst offenders is her best friend Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), who under the false pretence that black people carry different diseases to white, has put a proposal to the governor that separate toilets for 'the help' should be provided in every household. This takes Skeeter in a whole new direction; to write a book from the perspective of the help exposing how badly they are treated by the white families they work for. Her first informant is a maid named Aibileen (Viola Davis) who works for her friend Elizabeth (and serves as the film's narrator). Aibileen is later joined by fellow maid Minny (Octavia Spencer). Minny is Hilly's former maid who was fired for using the indoor toilet and not going into hurricane weather to use the 'help's toilet outside.
I will not reveal the rest of the story. Needless to say The Help is one the most powerful films I have seen for a long time. Before I watched it I had only a limited knowledge and appreciation of the extent of the civil and institutional racism which was commonplace in the USA in the mid 20th Century. Today the status of black citizens in the USA has rocketed, the election of Barrack O Bama in 2008 being a strong example. However the legacy of their mistreatment continues to blight their lives. Films including The Help serve to illustrate how such attitudes can be diluted but remain ingrained within American society.