Aug 2, 2012

Movie Review: The Help

It's the early 1960's and the Civil Rights movement is raging hard in the background while in the foreground black maids are treated like garbage by Stepford wives. The only person willing to acknowledge the injustice going on in high end suburbia is Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone), a wealthy white 23-year old girl who was raised by a black maid working for her absentee mother. Skeeter fulfills her dream of becoming a writer by interviewing her nearest willing maids under employ of stepford wife "friends". Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) are on the brink of being emotionally broken by the harassment and verbal abuse they've endured and make sure everybody who reads Skeeter's book knows it.

The acting in this film is top notch and the casting could not have been better. The majority of the actors are mainly known for honing their craft over the decades being character actors, meaning you see them in a lot of TV shows and movies in small parts but aren't likely to know their name. Emma Stone was the only actress I've seen in a lead role of other movies, and was originally what drew me to the film. The only other thing besides the acting that stood out was the directing, as handled by Tate Taylor. Taylor is a relative newcomer to the big screen, but I found his work to be relatively hit-or-miss. Some of the really jarring parts (which granted, much more experienced directors can be guilty of this too) is keeping the camera on someone's face as emotion washes over them for too long. Without spoiling anything, there's one emotional scene where two characters are very upset and heartbroken, but the camera lingers on them for far too long which made me uncomfortable.

My Highlights:
Minny delivering her pie, Skeeter's happiness with Stuart, and everything involving Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) who was my favorite character.

Overall Rating:
I rented this film for a date night but regularly have my movie-watching plans for the evening changed for me. That means she wasn't in the mood for a movie. Again. I watched The Help by myself instead, and was surprised how much I enjoyed it compared to how apathetic I was about turning it on to begin with. I procrastinated sitting down to watch it about a full week before I forced myself to, and I regret waiting so long. It's a long film at two and a half hours but it goes by quickly and tells a good story (or several) in that time. I never felt like anything should have been cut out other than the extended emotion recognition scenes. On the flipside, this movie didn't really give me anything I wasn't expecting from it when I put it on my rental queue. It's about as guilty as it can get of following the White Man's Burden trope, but sometimes those are a tremendous guilty pleasure. Overall rating...

4.5 / 5

When You Should See It:
If you like dramas, put this at the top of your queue. It's quirky and emotional in all the right spots. The only people who wouldn't like it are probably racists, but you're not a racist are you!?