The Help (2011)
Reader Rating (Rate Here) :[Total: 4 Average: 4/5]
Directed By: Tate Taylor
Cast: Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney
The Help is a story of African American maids working in white households of Jackson, Mississippi in 1960’s. It is a small revolution attempted by the maids against the inequality and injustice imparted to them by their employers. The Help is adapted from Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel of the same name.
Aibleen Clark (Viola Davis) has been a help throughout her life, tending to the white kids who grow up to be vile, like their mothers. Its not just a job for her as she has genuinely brought them up with love and affection. Their mothers are away attending kitty parties while leaving their kids entirely with the employed help. Aibleen works for Elizabeth Leaflot (Ahna O’Reilly) and takes care of her baby Mae Mobley.
The Help begins with the focus on Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone). She is an aspiring writer and a fellow socialite like Elizabeth. She gets a job as a columnist in a local newspaper and requires Aibleen’s help. Skeeter doesn’t like the way the whites treat their help and therefore asks Aibleen’s view on it. In a moment of epiphany she requests her inputs to write a book of the situation in Jackson. Initially reluctant, she agrees under the condition of anonymity.
But one is not enough and hence she recruits Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) to contribute her experiences. Minny Jackson is a friend of Aibleen and a help just like her. She now works for Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) after Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) fires her. Minny has 3 kids and a physically abusive husband. Minny is an excellent cook but has temper issues. But, in the end, its her temper that saves the entire community when she does the “terrible awful” to Hilly.
Celia is an outcast because Hilly hates her and in Jackson, Hilly sets the rule. Celia is married to a wealthy businessman who is incidentally Hilly’s ex-flame and hence, the hatred. She wants to impress her husband and thus comes to an arrangement with Minny. Minny is supposed to cook, do the chores and leave before Celia’s husband comes home. Minny not only teaches Celia cooking but helps her in dealing with life. She and Celia become good friends but Celia doesn’t listen to her when Minny warns her about Hilly.
Aibleen and Minny share their stories under the condition of anonymity residing in a fictional town. But two also aren’t just enough and soon many others follow due to certain circumstances. Their revelations soon becomes a revolution as ‘The Help’ spreads like wildfire. What happens thereafter forms the rest of the story.
The characters in this movie are better than the story as a whole. Individual brilliance by some of the leading ladies powers the entire movie. Octavia Spencer is good and deserves the Best Supporting Oscar she got for this role. I also liked Bryce Dallas Howard’s role as a mean vile socialite. She is relentless and will do whatever it takes to subjugate them. Chastain is good too and deserves her Oscar Nomination. Her character provides the comic relief in an otherwise simple movie. But the movie belongs to Viola Davis, from start to finish. Her’s is the saddest story among all the help and deserves all the happiness she can get. Emma Stone has a beautiful little subplot involving her mother getting her voice and eventual emancipation.
Given such a volatile subject, The Help is a soft movie. There are very few men in the entire movie- its a womens’ tale depicting not just the trials, tribulations and inequality faced by blacks. But also the similar judgement, inequality and struggles faced by the non conformist, career minded Skeeter. It is entertaining but I would have preferred more bite. Watch it and share your rating above.
Enjoy the trailer: