PG Cooper: The Help Review

Posted: September 25, 2011 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: August 10th, 2011

Running time: 146 minutes

Written by: Tate Taylor

Based on: The novel “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett

Directed by: Tate Taylor

Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavius Spencer, and Jessica Chastain

The Help was sort of an anomaly of the summer movie season. It was a modestly budgeted drama dealing with Southern racism in the 1950’s. While it had a popular young actress, the film wasn’t really marketed to teenage audiences at all. But this unusual combination turned out to be a huge success. The Help ended up being one of the highest grossing films of the summer. Most critics seemed to enjoy it too. So we have a summer film that goes against typical summer film conventions, features a cast of proven actors, has some deep subject matter, and was well received by critics. Question is, why did I take so long to see it? Well, two reasons. The first is I didn’t like the tone the trailer gave off. It just seemed too light and silly. I’m not saying I need dark and depressing films, but I expected subject matter like racism to be taken seriously. The other reason, I’ll get to that later. Regardless, I did decide to give this film a chance.

The film centers around black maids in Mississippi in the 1950s, and the hardships that come with that life. The film focuses on two maids in particular. One is Aiblieen Clark (Viola Davis), who spends most of her time raising white children. The other is Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) who works for the most despicable character of the film, Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard). The film also follows Skeeter (Emma Stone) a young white woman pursuing a writing career. She grows tired of the racism and treatment of the help and decides to write a book about their exploits. Skeeter decides to take stories from real maids, though most are reluctant to talk. Eventually, Aibileen decides to help and Minny agrees soon after.

The film’s concept has an inherit problem for me. The fact that it is yet another film about racism where black people need help from white people to be successful. I don’t like this attitude that minorities can’t be successful unless a white person is there to guide them. Whenever I bring this up, people argue that minorities do need help. I agree, except there is a difference between helping and leading. I’d much rather see strong black characters leading a change then a white person pushing them to do it. Now I wouldn’t have had a problem with this if it was based on a true story, but it isn’t. It’s a completely fictitious story. I’m sure a lot of the stories from the maids are accurate, but the overall plot is not. This was the other reason I resisted seeing this film.

Now with all of that said, the story here does work overall. You do get sucked up in the plot and you definitely root for your protagonists and hate the antagonists. So the story is mostly enjoyable and has cathartic moments, as well as darker and more intense moments. And despite my worries, the film does a good job balancing the lighter moments with legitimate drama…at first. Eventually though they fell into that hole and they fell hard. There is a joke in here so stupid I wanted to break something. I don’t wanna spoil it for the people who haven’t seen it, but I’ll just say it involves pie (if you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about). Not only is the joke horrible, but the film brings it up over and over again. It actually plays a pretty big role in the overall plot. And everyone in the theater would laugh every time the film brought it up. The only sound coming from me was teeth grinding. On top of all that, the movie is almost two and a half hours long and you feel every minute of it. I can’t say I was ever bored, but the running time is very noticeable.

What redeems this film? The acting. Overall, the acting in the film is great, and everyone delivers a great performance. Emma Stone tackles her first real serious role and she handles it very well. She’s very believable as a strong force and it’s easy to root for her. Viola Davis delivers another fantastic performance and is probably the best part about the film. All of the most emotional moments of the film come from her. Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain (one of my favourite young actors) both do a good job as very fun characters. Finally, we have Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly. Her character is pained a little broad, but Howard does a great job. Her character is a b**** and Howard does an excellent job making you hate her. There isn’t any real bad performances here though.

It’s clear that I’m not as taken by this movie as most people, but I do like it. It’s not a surprise to me that audiences are loving this since it is an audience pleasing film, and that isn’t a bad thing. The Help is a very accessible film that is emotionally stirring. Does it work well for me? Not really, but I do appreciate the film, especially the acting. I don’t love it, but it has it’s audience, and I have respect for a summer film that had the courage to deal with a mature topic, even if it didn’t handle it in the most graceful way.

Rating: B

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