The Help

Posted: August 18, 2011 by Micah in Movie Reviews
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Micah Reviews: The Help.

Gettin' by with a little Help from my friends!

A movie set in the early 1960’s focusing on Civil Rights in the Deep South! Can you say Remember the Titans? Regardless of your ability to name the titles of famous Denzel Washinton movies, this movie has practically nothing in common with that one. Except for the premise, over-all message, setting, weird hairstyles and the fact that people fall in the mud. In addition to not being about football, the Help is also not about Nuclear Reactors, Horses, the Revolutionary War, or the Iowa Caucus. What is the movie about you ask? Well that’s a question best answered under some words in bold font!

The Plot:

The sixties era town of Jackson, Mississippi was a simple idyllic lifestyle of eating, sleeping, laying out in the sun, and having your meals brought to you by people who you regarded as far inferior to yourself. If you were a cat that is. If you were a white woman things were roughly the same just with more talking to other white people, and having babies.  But the story really isn’t about those women, the story features (as you may have guessed) the help. The help are the African-American maids who work for the over privileged, over babied white women. They raise the white folk’s children, cook their meals, do their laundry, and are responsible for pretty much all the daily goings on in the house.

Meanwhile we meet Rita Skeeter… I mean Skeeter (whose real name is Eugenia… ba ha). Skeeter is a white journalist with curly blond hair and… wait… is no one else seeing the connection to Rita Skeeter here? Man… Anyway Rita sets about interviewing a couple different maids and finding out all about the poor treatment they are forced to endure. The primary Helpers she interviews are named Minnie and Adder…something. Adelaide? Abigail? Aberforth? Abba?… She interviews Minnie and Abba (Editors note: Abba was a horrible band Micah. Look it up.) And compromise my journalistic integrity? Never. (Editors note: You published a 1500 word story today that featured you and Riley hunting zombies in a video game. Pretty sure you don’t have any of that.) … valid point… Aibeleen. Skeeter starts interviewing Minnie and Aibeleen and learns about the hardships and racial discrimination faced by her new friends.

Over the course of the movie were introduced to several semi-related story lines and eventually Skeeter and her newfound friends manage to help the help, help themselves.

The Negatives:

This is not a short movie. It doesn’t feel short, moves fairly slowly, and never really rises to a climax anywhere. Even when you think you’re at the climax there’s another climax. I realize this is a movie based on a book and that it’s hardly a pulse hammering experience in the book either but I can’t say I was surprised to find out that the man directing it (the oddly named Tate Taylor) had virtually no directing experience. It’s not a huge deal and I still think The Help was a great movie on the whole but I’m sure a movie this high profile could have gotten a director that would have handled things a little better. It’s a movie with a great cast, a great story, and a really good message but the poor pacing is enough to keep it from being as good as it could have been.

There’s this random storyline introduced in the movie that it just doesn’t have time to develop. Rita Skeeter meets this random guy whose name I don’t remember and he’s a jerk. He re-enters the film about twenty minutes later flatters Rita, says he’s sorry, pouts his pristine lips, flexes his big southern man muscles and low and behold they’re dating! Dating??? What? Skeeter is established as being this smart, strong, independent woman right from the get go and Fabio’s little side show just seems so ridiculous that you spend the whole time waiting for her to lay the smack down and tell him that he’s an ignorant sod and that she hopes he gets hit by a tractor being driven by an elk, on the way home. Instead she smiles and says “let me get my sweater.” I’m sure in the book this was fleshed out more but in the movie it just feels out of place and rushed. There’s a delicate line in every movie where you have to ask yourself what parts are most important. In a movie that already felt long and draggy, adding in another side plot which you didn’t have time to develop anyway just seems like a bad idea.

Okay so I’m really not sure how to approach this one… There are significant appearances of the S word in this movie. Now mind you it’s always used fairly tastefully (as tastefully as the S word can be) and while it shouldn’t turn away a PG-13 ready audience I think it is a shame that it had to be in there. This is an awkward criticism cause I’m sure it makes just as many appearances in the book and I’m not saying it should be cut entirely and… see what I mean? Awkward. Here’s why it bothers me: The Help is a great movie, with a great message that needs to be delivered to all audiences. The movie is clean, appropriately scary at times, and has enough humor and charm to entertain a younger audience. But the frequent appearance of objectionable language keeps me from being able to recommend it for the youngers. This is a shame.

The Positrons:

The acting in The Help is superb! Emma Stone finally proves that she can be serious as well as comic with her portrayal of Skeeter and the incredibly unfortunately named Bryce Dallas Howard does a great job with the stories main villain, the somewhat unfortunately named Hilly Holbrook. Aside from the name Bryce… Brycett? I don’t even know how to proceed from here… like I was gonna write how she’s done a lot of really good work and how she was an underappreciated actress but… Bryce Dallas Howard?? Really?

Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer also get major props for great portrayals of Aibeleen and Minnie, respectively.

I can’t stress enough what a great story and message this movie carries. It’s about so much more then just the difference between the help and the helped. It’s about friendship and love and standing up for what’s right. It’s a movie with a strong female lead and a strong female supporting cast that, refreshingly, don’t need some big namedHollywoodactor to come in and save the day. The Help is a story we all need to hear and a story that we shouldn’t get tired of hearing either. In my opening paragraph I made some jokes about Remember the Titans but, completely honestly, the two have a lot of similarities. And that is not at all a bad thing.

In Conclusion:

It’s early to be touting around Oscar nominations but this is one of the first movies I’ve seen this year that have made me legitimately think it has Oscar potential. If nothing else it will get a nomination for best ensemble cast.  That said, the Help is not a perfect movie but, then again, there really aren’t a whole lot of those floating around these days. The pacing is slow, and there were a couple places I felt like it could have made a strong punch but didn’t. But that doesn’t stop it from being an amazing period piece, with an incredibly strong cast, and a great message!

I give it 4 Bryce Dallas Howard’s out of 5

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