Friday, 05 June 2020
The Help
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Thursday, 18 August 2011 11:20
The HelpAmidst a summer of caped crusaders, The Help comes in like a breath of humid, Southern air and tells the story of a different kind of superhero. Based on a best-selling novel, this historical drama about African American maids working in the white households of Jackson, Mississippi may be classified as fiction but its feet are firmly planted in reality.

The story focuses on three central characters, spinning a series of stories around them. Viola Davis plays Abileen, a middle-aged woman in the 1960’s who has worked as a maid all her life, raising the children of wealthy white families. Her grandmother was a slave, and every day Abileen – just two generations later – still struggles against many of the same inequalities and prejudices.

Gossip about townHer sparky best friend Minny (Octavia Spencer) has a hard time bowing down to the wealthy folks who employ her. Unfortunately for her, she works for a snooty young socialite named Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard). Hilly’s sweet-as-pie demeanor hides a spark of cruelty and shameless racism. Her current passion is to pass a law that would require black employees to have a separate bathroom in a white household, so as not to spread disease. Hard to imagine that this type of attitude was widely accepted only 50 years ago!

The stories of these women is tied together by a young white woman named Skeeter played by Emma Stone. She wants to be a writer and help tell their story, so the world will know what really goes on in Jackson.

This is obviously weighty subject matter for a piece of summer entertainment. The Help runs the gamut between being an emotionally charged, historical eye-opener and a nice fluffy slice of entertainment. The fact that it can do it this well, is a tribute to both the books author and to the talent involved in the film.

Storytellers, Stone, Davis and SpencerSome people criticize the film for stereotyping, but I felt the characters were actually very dimensional and Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer put in amazing performances full of depth. Emma Stone is loveable as always, exploring a more serious side from her usual comedic roles.

One of the main “characters” in the film isn’t really a character at all. Food plays an important role, nourishing physically and spiritually. It all looks delicious – except maybe a certain chocolate pie that Minny cooks up!

It’s no To Kill a Mockingbird, but The Help is a story well told that will make you make you smile, and make you think. It’s a reminder that the “good old days” weren’t always so good.


Directed by Tate Taylor, Starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spenser.

Based on the best-selling novel The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Emma Stone is also currently starring in Crazy, Stupid, Love with Ryan Gosling.