For most of you, I’m assuming you’re not eagerly awaiting the release of The Help on DVD and Blu-ray. Would it interest you more if I guaranteed it a date-night success? Thought so. But before I delve into my take of The Help, let’s get one thing straight: The Help is not a movie that tells the story of the book The Help…technically. The Help is an adaptation of the 2009 #1 New York Times bestseller aptly titled The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Essentially, the movie is about a book that tells the story of the writing of a (fictitious) book called The Help. Got that?
The Help is an inspirational story of an unlikely group of women in 1960s Jackson, Miss., that unite around a secret writing project that exposes the perspective of black maids raising the children of affluent white women during the Civil Rights era. You’ll laugh, cry, sympathize and triumph with the cast from beginning to end.
The Help exceeded my expectations— first with the casting and second with the script. So much so, that the 2 hours and 18 minute running time flew by without a glance at the clock. I’ll admit that I may have been a bit biased at the start as I’m an Emma Stone fan. I loved her blunt sarcasm in Zombieland and Easy A, so I was expecting another great performance from her here, and was not disappointed. It took a while to get used to her character of Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, but once you get past the extra curly hair, glasses and Southern twang, you’re already vested in her as the easily likable protagonist that goes against everyone and everything to follow her passion.
The witty and accurate script successfully intertwines a dynamic ensemble cast (led by Stone) with an insightful and captivating plot set against the themes of change and racial prejudice. Skeeter, a 20-something writer looking to land her dream job in a New York publishing house, moves back home after college to realize she’s starting to divert from her childhood friends, who have chosen instead to get married, start families and, consequently, follow the tradition of hiring help to care for the house and raise their children. Maids Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) enlighten Skeeter with their equally humorous and heart wrenching stories of everyday life as housekeeper, cook, personal assistant and nanny, for a chance to have a voice for change in the Civil Rights era. Eventually, Aibileen and Minny recruit all the maids in town to share their stories as well, so Skeeter can submit her book for publishing and help spur change in an already dynamic and emotionally charged time.
The rest of cast carries the storyline with several laugh-out-loud and standout character traits. Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the town’s social leader, Minny’s employer and the natural enemy, while Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain’s character) provides enough enthusiasm and infectious energy that you can’t help but like her within the first five seconds of her introduction. Sissy Spacek and Allison Janney provide the motherly and first-generation perspective. One stand-out scene is Minny’s retelling of her ‘Terrible Awful’ story and the revenge she successfully served to Hilly. (SPOILER: Let’s just say the chocolate pie didn’t include chocolate.)
All in all, The Help, is not a go-to pick for most guys. It is, however, a great pick for a Friday-night viewing or a holiday gift for the women in your life of all ages— as The Help quickly triumphs in more ways than one.
Special features include:
The Making of The Help: From Friendship to Film – How the childhood experiences of director Tate Taylor and novelist Kathryn Stockett, also personal friends, translated to the big screen.
In Their Own Words: A Tribute to the Maids of Mississippi – A look into Southern living through the stories of real-life maids, including Taylor’s childhood caretaker.
Music Video – Mary J. Blige’s The Living Proof (from the credits). Seriously, you can now rest easy knowing that’s included.