Review first published 18/03/12
Set in Mississippi in the 1960s, “The Help” is the story of three women who seek to build a friendship by undertaking a project to write a book which tells of the lives of the African-American women who are the maids in the town of Jackson… a book which puts all of the women involved at risk.
If I had to sum up this film in one word, it would be “Wow!!!”. I had heard of this film through the good press that it had been receiving which has culminated in numerous awards wins and nominations including Academy Award and BAFTA success for Octavia Spencer.
The script by director Tate Taylor from the novel by Kathryn Stockett was captivating throughout. Not only do you get a story which speaks of the hardships, even, at some points, indignities that the maids had to face, but through the story of the need for these women to speak out – albeit through the protection of anonymity, the courage of the people who undertook the challenge to become enablers for change through the Civil Rights movement. It is a storyline that will have you laughing, punching the air and, possibly crying in equal measure.
The acting is top notch throughout. The three co-leads of Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Abilene and Octavia Spencer as Minny was a fantastic combination as you get a real sense of Skeeter’s need to drive change alongside Abilene’s need to tell a story due to her son’s passing and Minny’s need for justice. You also get a convincing portrayal of the bond of friendship that these women form and whilst I may repeat phrases that have probably been used in a lot of other reviews, their portrayals are heartwarming, empowering and strong.
Whilst the supporting cast are equally well cast, I wish to point out two for special recognition. The first is Bryce Dallas Howard who is cast against the type of character that I’m used to seeing her perform as in the role of Hilly. Hilly is very much a product of the society she lives in and who can be described as loathsome. It is to Dallas Howard’s credit that she is wholly convincing in the role – so much so that you cheer on a particular incident in the film, which I do not wish to spoil here.
The other supporting actress who I wish to speak of is Jessica Chastain who portrays the character of Celia Foote. At first, through the conversations you hear of early in the film, you think of Celia as a “trophy wife” unable to help herself, but through the course of the film, you get the sense of a character who wears a mask to protect her emotions and through her friendship with Minny becomes as empowered as the maids.
I really enjoyed the film and I have already got this book on my Kindle wish list, which is also down to the highly positive feedback received for it.
If you haven’t already seen “The Help”, please, please see it. It’s a wonderfully warm film about a very important issue.