The Help (2011)

Greg Says: You’ll be transported back in time not by the visuals, but by the attitudes

Title: The Help (2011)
Date: 19 August 2011
Recommendation: See this movie in the theater
Helpful: 0 out of 1 found this helpful.

Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan (Emma Stone) is a recent college graduate returning home to 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi, eager to start her first job as a columnist for the local paper. Her job is to answer letters homemakers write about how to best clean their homes. She has no first- hand knowledge of this task, having been raised in privilege by her own family maid, Constantine (the venerable Cicely Tyson). She turns to a friend’s maid, Aibileen (Viola Clark) for assistance.

Skeeter comes to learn about how poorly the maids are treated – especially when forced to use “separate but equal” bathrooms in the homes. She induces Aibileen and Minny (Octavia Spencer) to share their stories which Skeeter hopes to turn into a book. They do share them, including one “terrible awful” that Minny perpetrated on her employer Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard). But publisher Elain Stein (Mary Steenburgen) requires more servants to be involved before she will consider publishing the book. The women are reticent to help until an injustice is performed on one of their own. Then Skeeter has as much support as she needs.

This is a fine film filled with wonderful performances. Emma Stone is lovely and very believable as the southern girl who grew up and came home. There is even a scene where the movie flashes back to Skeeter’s high school days when she was clumsy and awkward. And she plays it brilliantly, looking very plain as a youngster. Viola Clark is the heart of this film. Her character is shown giving love and encouragement to the children she raises. And Octavia Spencer’s character teaches her new employer Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O’Reilly) how to cook and clean house.

The movie is set in the 1960’s but you wouldn’t know it from what’s on- screen. Usually in a period film, such as this, there are constant reminders that you’re in the past: A television in the background showing an old show; or a TV Guide cover; or a number of external shots of old places of business. But not so with “The Help.” While all the women of “The Help” are wearing period garb and hairstyles, what transports one back to this time is attitudes. The attitudes of these wealthy women toward their help.

I feel that I am ill-equipped to review “The Help.” Most Summertime movies are aimed pretty low – at the attentions of teenagers and make for pretty easy dissection. “The Help” is a thoughtful, humorous, and touching story about servitude and the attitudes that made it possible. And about the love of servant women for the children – even the grown children – they served and raised. The most shocking thing about the movie is not the “terrible awful” that Minny perpetrates, but rather the fact that these events took place only 50 years ago.

I recommend you “See this movie in the theater” because you’ll want to enjoy it with other people. Then I recommend you “Wait for the instant download” because you’ll want to see it again.