Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76% (Critics) / 91% (Audience)
Directed By: Tate Taylor
Written By: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard and Octavia Spencer
Studio: DreamWorks Studios
Synopsis: THE HELP is the movie adaptation of the phenomenally popular book of the same name. The movie is set in 1963 Jackson, Mississippi in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement and is about the black maids who work in the white households of Jackson and the young white woman who decides to tell their stories. The book has been pretty controversial with a lot of black historians taking offense to the telling of this story by a white woman and a black maid suing the author for supposedly stealing the story of her life. And that controversy extends to the movie as well with some black groups condemning it sight unseen. I didn’t have any preconceived notions about THE HELP because the story is based on a work of historical fiction so it strikes me as odd for people to get all pissy about it. Maids, mammies, and racism existed and hating on a movie just because it deals with those facts is just stupid.
Now the movie itself is carried more on the strength of the actresses in it than anything else. Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, and Bryce Dallas Howard were all really good. Howard really stood out because I am used to her playing the young ingenue or heroine but in THE HELP she was a completely unlikable beeyotch and she killed it. But the MVP’s of THE HELP were Davis and Spencer. Viola Davis conveyed so much emotion as Aibileen with just a look or her body language and she should be under serious consideration for an Oscar nomination.
Octavia Spencer as Minnie was the breakout performer in this movie though. She stole every scene she was in and gave the kind of performance that will guarantee her not only a Best Supporting Actress nomination but will likely get her the win. It will also earn her the hatred of Mo’Nique now that her talk show is canceled and all the roles she would have been cast in will be going to Spencer. She better get herself some bodyguards with the quickness.
Aside from the stellar performances the movie itself was pretty basic. Not much originality was shown in the script and I came away from the movie thinking that the decision should have been made to spend more time on the maids personal lives and less on some of the white chicks. I especially would have liked to have seen more on Minnie’s home life. A lot was made of the fact that Minnie’s husband was abusive but it was never shown and I think that lessened the effectiveness of many of the scenes that dealt with Minnie’s story arc in that regard.
Final Verdict: So THE HELP is a good little movie that pokes at some old wounds that are still not healed. I recall this being so very evident when the person I went to the cinemaplex to see THE HELP with kept getting pissed off by some of the things that she saw on screen. That agitation was further compounded by one other thing that really had nothing to do with the movie itself. We came into the movie a little bit after the previews had already started and when we turned the corner to enter the theater we were faced with a wall of white people. I had to catch myself to use my inside voice when I asked why the hell are there so many white people in this movie theater?!?!? Every seat in the place (aside from the two rows in the absolute front of the theater) was filled by middle-aged to elderly white folks. And they were deeply into this movie too; laughing and crying and then they gave it a standing ovation when the credits came up like they were at a real theater watching a play or something. It was bizarre as hell.
But back on point…THE HELP was a decent movie that is worth viewing just on the face of the strong performances by the actors in it. B-