Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Help

It's the early 60's, where every home in the upper-crust society of Jackson, Mississippi is staffed with a black maid. A budding writer, Skeeter (Emma Stone) has just returned from college and among the drama decides to write a book based upon the experiences of The Help. A look through their eyes, and what it's like to raise the white woman's child and care for her home while living a life second class citizenship.

What can work better than a movie based in the Jim Crow South among the backdrop of race and the struggle for civil rights? In some ways, we've seen all this shit before. We've heard all the stories, usually followed by some moral finger-wagging toward white people. This story spares us finger wagging while presenting us with a cross-section of humanity from the time.
  • Skeeter: as the writer, she finds herself at odds with the racial attitudes held by most of her peers.
  • Aibileen (Viola Davis): a middle-aged maid who is the first to risk sharing her thoughts for Skeeter's book.
  • Minny (Octavia Jackson): close friend of Aibileen who's penchant for sass talk means she has trouble keeping a job.
  • Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard): a snobbish alpha bitch who's "Home Help Sanitation Initiative" will mandate segregated restrooms within private residences who hire black Help. Her facilities fetish provides the spark that ingnites the story.
  • Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain): social outcast from the wrong part of town, employs Minny when nobody else will work for her. She has issues fitting in and can't seem to learn the 'divide' tween white boss and black help, viewing Minny not as employee but as friend and confidant.
It is mostly Viola Davis' Aibileen who carries the story while Octavia Jackson's Minny steals every scene as the action see-saws from serious to comedic. I guess in the end what we've really got is a funny drama or a dramatic comedy. Take your pick.
It's a very good movie;, good enough that I expect it's makers will be hearing from the academy come Oscar time.

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