The Help

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Like 2009’s The Blind Side, The Help may be accused of falling into the genre of nice-white-lady-helping-out-the-less-fortunate films. This argument is a little unfair; I feel that The Help has far more to offer audiences than this trite synopsis may lead you to believe. Based on a popular novel by Kathryn Stockett, The Help is set in 1960s Mississippi. It tells the story of a young woman named Skeeter (played by the wonderful Emma Stone) who returns home to Jackson with the hopes of becoming a writer. Instead of putting effort into the cleaning column she has been hired to write, Skeeter decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of affluent – and often malicious – housewives and their families. The help, as the maids are known, raise the children, cook and clean every day before taking home their meager pay to their own families. Despite the women’s efforts to teach love and kindness, the children they care for grow up to have children of their own, and often become just as dismissive – and sometimes abusive – as their mothers. Viola Davis is remarkable as Aibileen, the first to open up to Skeeter despite her fears. Aibileen suffers from depression following the death of her son, and soon lets the tales of injustice and heartache flow out of her, helping her come to terms with his death and gain a newfound sense of courage. The transformation of the character is subtle, but performed with such grace and believability that you will find yourself empathizing completely with her character. The rest of the cast does a fantastic job, as well. Octavia Spencer delivers a show-stealing performance as Minny, Aibileen’s best friend. She has great chemistry with both Viola Davis and Jessica Chastain, who is delightful as a country bumpkin shunned by the other society girls. Sissy Spacek, Allison Janney and Bryce Dallas Howard round out the excellent female cast. While some might continue to argue that this movie is about white people saving the day, I strongly disagree. This is a movie about perpetuating human decency, about empowering women so that they don’t feel the need to bully and backstab. It’s a film that all women should see, if at the very least for the strong female performances.
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Tags: Emma Stone, movie review, The Help