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A beautiful film--and realistic
jwfuller13 September 2011
If this film were total fiction bearing no relation to reality, it would still be worth seeing for the fine acting and production values--even if some of the young white women approached "Southern Gothic."

But it wasn't fiction--at least, the depiction of Southern society wasn't. As I watched I kept drifting back to small-town South Carolina in the 1950s, where I grew up. It was moving and disturbing to be reminded how black people were treated then--loved and yet "kept down in their place." Our neighborhood was all middle-class and every family had a maid. There were plenty of boys my age, we visited in each other's homes, and called every maid by her first name. One even started a baseball team for the little white boys, for which her reward was a visit by the Klan.

Our maid helped my mother cook and clean. One of my parents picked her up and took her home every day--and she rode in the back seat. She ate her lunch in our kitchen--without being allowed to use our utensils. I remember her eating with her fingers. I do not remember ever seeing her use our bathrooms. I thought about that during the movie and truly cannot recall what she did, an embarrassing gap in memory.

I do remember when my father was out of work and our maid had to be cut back to three days a week. I actually cried; she was a member of our family. When talk about civil rights began in the late 1950s, my mother became annoyed at our maid for getting "uppity." And so it went. We moved to central Florida in 1961, where there were no maids.

Travel back in time with this film. It's quite real, and I highly recommend it.
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See this film
stevemcalevey9 June 2011
I just returned from seeing a special preview of "The Help," which is due out in theaters this summer.

Okay, so here's the truth: I'm a middle-aged, white male... I didn't read the book and I assumed, based on the fact that this is a virtually an all-female cast, that this was some sort of chick flick. Boy, was I wrong!

This is an incredible film that not only pays justice to the bestseller on which it's based (according to those who have read the book AND seen the film), but is phenomenally cast, with exceptional performances by Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Allison Janney. Veteran actresses Sissy Spacek and Cicely Tyson also deliver incredible performances. While Tyson's character is central to the storyline, her role comprises what seems to be a few, precious minutes of the 2:20 running time, she delivers, in my opinion, one of the most powerful and moving moments in the in which she doesn't even utter a line (trust me, you'll know when you see it.)

The Help also delivers some very funny moments and will make you laugh. I'll go so far as to say that this film and a few of its cast members will draw some Oscar nominations. I certainly think this takes Stone into a whole new level.

The racial imbalances of 1963 are well illustrated in "The Help," and will, no doubt, underscore how far America has come, as well as how little progress we've made in the last 50 years. Either way, this is a powerful movie that needs to be seen on the big screen as soon as you can get a ticket.
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Minny Don't Burn Chicken
ferguson-613 August 2011
Greetings again from the darkness. The film is based on the controversial best selling novel by Kathryn Stockett. It was controversial because it is the story of Jim Crow-era maids written by a white woman. Yes, the book is actually the fictionalized story of a white woman getting black maids to discuss their lives as maids for white folks. Rather than get into some politically correct dissertation on the book, movie or story, I will only comment on the film itself ... this very entertaining movie that also manages to deliver a timeless message.

Let me first start by saying that this movie is incredibly well acted. It is quite rare to have so many developed characters in one movie. There are some characters we immediately connect with, while others draw our ire each time their face appears. The script and these fine actresses utilize humor to point out the shameful behavior of those who saw themselves as superior. The humor doesn't soften the ignorance or abuse, but it does make the film infinitely more watchable and entertaining. Please know this is not a documentary.

Ms. Stockett's novel has a very loyal following in addition to the naysayers. A two hour film must, of course, take short cuts and trim story lines. Still the key elements are present. Based in Jackson, Mississippi during Governor Ross Barnett's term we see the social shark, Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), in her full glory of ignorance, entitlement and superiority. We see her minions and followers emulating her moves while trying to gain her approval.

The story takes off when Skeeter (Emma Stone) graduates from Ole Miss and returns home and takes a job at the local newspaper. Possessing observation skills and humanity that her lifelong friends can't comprehend, Skeeter desperately wants to tell a story from the perspective of the maids. As expected, the maids are hesitant, but Aibileen (Viola Davis) does relent. The stories begin to flow and soon the robust Minny (Octavia Spencer) joins in. Others soon follow their lead and Skeeter's education goes to an entirely new level.

That's really all of the story I care to discuss. The brilliance of this one is actually in the details ... individual scenes and moments of acting genius by most of the cast. In addition to those mentioned above, Jessica Chastain plays Celia, the "white trash" outcast who so desperately wants to be allowed back into the girls' club. Ms. Chastain was seen a few weeks ago in the fabulous "Tree of Life" in quite a different role ... I would venture to say no actress will have two roles of such variance this year. Also, Allison Janney plays Skeeter's cancer-stricken mother, and Sissy Spacek is Hilly's mother who gets tossed aside before she is ready to go! The great Cicely Tyson makes a brief appearance as Constantine, Skeeter's childhood maid who was done so wrong after 29 years of service. Mary Steenburgen has a couple of scenes as a big NYC book publisher.

As a said, this is pure acting heaven, but I must single out Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Viola is so powerful at the beginning and end of the film, and Ms. Spencer is a force of nature during the middle. This movie is really their story and these two ladies make it fascinating, painful and a joy to behold. They both deserve recognition at Oscar time.

There are so many fantastic details to the film. At times, it is like watching a classic car show ... the late 50's and early 60's models are works of art. The wardrobe, hair and make-up are perfect in setting up the class differentials. The TV and radio segments provide context and timing with the deaths of Medger Evers and JFK. Even the books on Skeeter's shelf make a statement: To Kill a Mockingbird, Huck Finn, Native Son, and Gone With the Wind.

This story takes place 50 years ago and director Tate Taylor does an admirable job of bringing Stockett's novel to the big screen. Mr. Taylor is a longtime friend of Ms. Stockett's and was quite fortunate to get the directing rights. He doesn't disappoint. Sure the story is a bit glossy at times ... it is geared towards the masses. If you are looking for more depth, there are numerous documentaries available on the Civil Rights movement. If you are seeking a very entertaining movie that uses humor to tell a story and send a message, then this one's for you.
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ashleyyh7 July 2011
I just got back from a special-screening of "The Help" at my local movie theatre, so I thought that I might as well do a review for all of you who are wanting to see this movie when it comes out.

Now, first off, I must admit that I have only read a portion of the book, but I definitely do know a lot about it. After watching the trailer, I was intrigued, so of course, I visited the IMDb boards to learn more about it. At first glance, the casting caught my attention big-time. Emma Stone as 'Skeeter'? I bet most people were as shocked as I was to find out that she was cast as the main character -- but let me tell you what: the casting was superb! I could not have chosen a better cast than what was already chosen. There was amazing chemistry between both the antagonists and protagonists. I won't go into too much depth about the characters, but for me, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Sissy Spacek, and Octavia Spencer were the shining stars of the movie.

Casting: 9.5/10 I know that there has been an on-going issue about this movie from a lot of people claiming that "the blacks had to be 'saved' by the whites" (pardon the language), or something along those lines. I have to agree that the trailer does give off that type of vibe -- Skeeter saving the colored-folks -- however, the movie tells and depicts otherwise - the colored-folks actually saved themselves. Minny and Aibileen, as well as the other colored-folks in the community, were the real "heroes" of the movie; they just needed someone to push them to their potential (Skeeter).

I can not remember the last time I saw a movie that inspired me, made me cry, made me laugh, and made me sad, angry, and hopeful, all at the same time -- this is what "The Help" strides and aims for, without making it "cheesy". Without a doubt in my mind, there are definitely Oscar-worthy performances in this movie. Not only does this movie depict just the colored-folks' side of the story, but it also equally shows the feelings of the white-folks, as well. So, you definitely get both sides of the story without it being more or less "mean" or "degrading" to any sides.

There are definitely a few awkward moments in the movie, but what movie doesn't have them? This movie started around 7:10 and ended around 9:20 -- about 2 hours and 10 minutes, give or take, if my calculations are correct. However, this movie only felt like it was an hour-long. It was so good that I didn't even know the two hours passed by until the theatre lights lid and the rolling credits began.

All in all, this is a DEFINITELY-MUST-SEE movie. I personally believe that it is one of the best movies of 2011. Go see it -- you will not regret it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Movie rating: 9/10
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A Film to Remember
taylor_king-890-81549110 August 2011
I took our 12 year old daughter to see this movie and we both loved it. She was not thrilled when I told her we were going to see a film that told a story from the civil rights era but when we left she said she loved it because of the women's courage, their humor and the power of their friendships. We had never seen most of the actors which was refreshing and the acting by the entire cast made it easy to get totally involved. I laughed out loud and shed quite a few tears in The Help, and will remember it and recommend it to my friends. It was wonderful to see so many scenes in which the actors related to each other so perfectly. Even the vilest characters showed moments of conflict within themselves as they played out poor behavior that had long been inbred in them. I am especially grateful to the team who provided a film that told an engaging story about human relationships with important lessons for my daughter. That is a rare occurrence in today's movies.
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Brilliant !
hermeoine1219 June 2014
This movie will hold a special glue to anyone who has been a Gone With The Wind fan , for the rest it just might simulate them to revisit those history lessons . The film is brilliantly cast , there being not a single dull moment. The film revolves around three very different women who form an unlikely friendship in their quest for a common goal. It is much more then just being about the state of events in the 1950s at the South .Its a portrayal of a waning tradition that still grips the peninsula even after a century of the Civil War which was fought to abolish the exact same custom. It raises serious issues - demarcation of people based on skin color , making another human being walk in incessant rain rather than allowing her(it?) to use one's own bathroom , makes us reflect that we still aren't very far along the vicious prejudice. The movie also touches upon how the untarnished mind of a child is capable to love the same person he would grow up to walk all over on, of how society can be a venomous influence in conditioning the brain on so much discrimination. In the end it also hints that even after being subjected to centuries of venom , the heart still has the capability to love, that there is still hope for all of us.
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rochelleaac1 December 2012
Having never read the book but always wanting too, The help was an obvious choice whilst choosing a film for a quiet night in with friends.

Set in the 1960's, The Help tells the story of two black maids trying to make a decent living in the south. A heart warming, controversial tale of a struggle to be heard in a civilisation full of deaf ears.

Kudos to Taylor for representing both sides of the story. She portrays the ignorant racists as well as Skeeter's endeavour to make the world realise the immorality of the oppression. Emma Stone plays this well, despite bordering patronising a few times. Minny on the other hand manages to find a balance between an eye rolling, finger snapping, sarcastic stereotype and a headstrong, witty character. Aibileen also does this and still manages to keep it genuine as she creates a bond with one of the children she cares for telling her 'you is kind, you is smart, you is important' this was an important relationship in the film because it educates the audience about the emotional bond that developed between maids and those that they cared for.

Skeeter's tell all book provides an opportunity for a power shift from the black staff to their white owners and back and forth, providing a roller coaster of entertainment for the viewer.
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A Must See, Oscar Worthy film
facebook-124-95584513 August 2011
Recently the other Dude and I were discussing that not many award worthy movies come out during the summer; then I see The Help. To say it is not a story that I am normally interested in would be an understatement. I wasn't around during the time of segregation to fully appreciate the depth of this story. Additionally, if there was ever a movie that screamed "chick flick" it would be this one. In spite of that, I've heard wonderful things about the book and decided to view the movie. I'm happy to say that I'm glad that I did. Virtually unknown director Tate Taylor put together a cast of relatively unknown actors and actresses that truly made the story go.

Taylor, whose last movie was the little seen Pretty Ugly People, grabbed a familiar actress to join him in making The Help, Allison Janney. Other than Janney the only other familiar actresses in the movie are Cicely Tyson and Sissy Spacek. The rather unknown cast has a fresh feeling on the story and there are no preconceived notions based on a past actor or actresses work. That being said Emma Stone (Easy A), and Viola Davis had a true coming out party in The Help. Both women played fantastic parts, which really made the cast mesh nicely together. Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain were all spectacular in supporting roles alongside Stone and Davis.

When a movie doesn't have the explosions, crazy action or crude humor that we've become accustomed to seeing in newer movies there has got to be a great story attached in order to maintain your interest; The Help had that great story. There aren't many movies that have you laughing, crying, or getting angry and end up still being fantastic and that is where this one had me. With my common rule of no movie should be over 2 hours unless it is special; this one is very special. I would be surprised if there aren't a number of nominations coming.

Children: If they can handle a lot of dialog it is age appropriate for 10+ Award Worthy: YES! Nominations for: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Picture, Director Entertaining: Yes Summer Movie Grade: A+ Is it Worth the Price of a Movie ticket: Yes Would I watch It Again: Yes

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Mesmerizing - Pure Oscar Material!
deborahjwood17 August 2011
Oscar Oscar Oscar – Kathryn Stockett's beautiful book is Oscar worthy in this film -- for editing, screenplay, supporting actress (several deserving) – Emma Stone just shines – at just 22 years old, this film proves she is a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. There are so few roles written for black women and I was thrilled to see such great roles filled by Viola Davis (Abigail) and Octavia Spencer (Minnie) - both should be nominated for supporting roles although in my opinion, along with Emma Stone, all three share top billing.

The character development in this movie is really outstanding – I hate movies with flat single dimension characters and these from the lowest to those with the most screen time are just remarkably developed – even the newspaper editor, the lines they chose for him to keep gave you enough information that even he is a memorable character with only three scenes, maybe 4 in the entire movie. Same for Stuart, Skeeter's love interest – you actually like him then hate him and he only has maybe 3 minutes of air time. Great great job. Sissy Spacek with so few speaking moments is great as is Cicely Tyson who speaks volumes even in scenes with no words. Admittedly, being based on an amazing book the background story was already set out and tracks the book closely without some of the details but they have done a great job of putting it to film –

This movie sets out beautifully a terrible time in our history that unfortunately is not over – it is better, but not over by a long shot. Being a child of the south and coming up during that time, being raised by such bigoted grandparents and parents, it leaves me pause to wonder how I avoided this rabid virus of hate and takes me back to long hot lazy days in the deep south before every building was air conditioned – such attention detail right down to the Jesus fans they waved in church – awesome flick. You FEEL the heat, the tension, the pain, the injustice of the time but still you laugh with them even as you cry for them - both races - ignorance is to be wept over.

However, I think this movie does more, goes further in its exploration of the behavior of the privileged during that time. They were rabid toward blacks but were not that much better toward anyone who did not share their socio-economic status (the way the "Junior League" treated Celia) and the enormous peer pressure they put on one another (the club encouraging Skeeter's mother to make a poor decision). It visits the sins of the parents passed on to their children – the bigotry and injustice that is learned at the knee of our elders. OMG it is just an awesome, poignant, moving, NOT TO BE MISSED film.

Mesmerizing from start to finish – never once drags – just an easy easy easy 10
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Disney's Help
littlemartinarocena4 September 2011
Lovely performances makes this far too clean and neat story, not merely palatable but enjoyable. We know by now that the plight of the "colored" in the South wasn't that clean cut or gentle in any way or shape. Here we can sit and watch discovering the depth of he ordeal in the wonderful face of Viola Davis. But, it all remains in the mild margins of the real story. Entertaining yes but I couldn't forget documentaries of the period or "The Long Walk Home" with Whoopi Goldberg and Sissy Spacek. Sissy Spacek is in "The Help" too and she's very funny. It also shows Bryce Dallas Howard under a new light. The bitchy, almost evil light. She's better here than she's ever been. Emma Stone is lovely and the wonderful Allison Janney in a disturbingly recognizable character raises the film to unexpected levels. I felt the film was too long and too careful not to offend anybody and that's were its weaknesses lay. But, I do recommend it.
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Well-acted, emotionally satisfying human drama
JamesHitchcock1 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
There have been a number of films about the Deep South during the Civil Rights era, mostly ("Mississippi Burning" and "Ghosts of Mississippi" being examples) concentrating on the political struggle for equality. "The Help" is a recent film which brings a slightly different approach to this period, concentrating on the relationship between well-to-do white Southerners and their black maids.

Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan is a young white woman from a wealthy family in Jackson, Mississippi. She has ambitions to make a career in writing and journalism, and plans to write a book about the experiences of black maids (referred to as "the help") working for white families. Unlike most of her friends, Skeeter is a liberal on racial issues and is horrified by the bigoted views which she has heard other white women express, often quite openly in front of their black servants. She hopes that her book will help to expose this sort of prejudice, but finds that no maids are willing to be interviewed.

Eventually, however, two maids, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson, come forward. Both have good cause to be dissatisfied with their employers, especially Minny who has not only been sacked but also falsely accused of theft. Minny's employer Hilly is a particularly unpleasant individual, with an obsession with forcing black maids to use separate toilet facilities from the families they work for. The real reason for Minny's sacking was that she used the family's indoor bathroom rather than use an outside toilet during a thunderstorm. (One thing I have never understood why people like Hilly, who obviously has a poisonous dislike of all black people, did not simply employ a white maid; perhaps they could not find any white women willing to work for the low wages that black maids were paid).

Some films with a "civil rights" theme, "Mississippi Burning" being an example, have a male-dominated cast, but "The Help" is very much a "women's film" with all the main roles, both heroines and villains, being taken by women. There is an attempt to give Skeeter a boyfriend, but their brief friendship- it never really deserves the name "romance"- fizzles out when he disapproves of her book and of her views on the race question. With that exception, all the male actors play very minor roles.

With the exception of Bryce Dallas Howard from "The Village" and Viola Davis, who greatly impressed me in "Doubt", most of the leading actresses in the film were faces I had never seen before. (I must admit that I did not recognise Howard, here a brunette although normally a redhead). I understand that Jessica Chastain actually made seven feature films in 2011- a quite remarkable work-rate for a modern actress- but this is the only one I have yet seen. Chastain plays Celia Foote, Skeeter's only ally among Jackson's housewives. Although Celia's husband is from the city's wealthy elite, she herself is from a working-class background, which means that the likes of Hilly despise her as poor white trash who has got above herself. Although historically many poor whites were just as racist as rich ones, if not more so, Celia's experience of being on the receiving end of bigotry makes her a much more liberal employer. (Minny goes to work for her after being sacked by Hilly).

Chastain's is one of a number of excellent performances in this film; the others come from Emma Stone as Skeeter, Davis (even better here than she was in "Doubt") as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as the sharp-tongued Minny, a woman determined to fight back against prejudice. (Spencer won a "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar).

I would have a couple of criticisms of the film. Howard as Hilly, like some of the other actresses playing the snooty society matrons, plays her character rather too much as a one-dimensional stereotype, the snobbish upper-class bitch. The sub-plot involving Minny's chocolate pie seemed out of place, the sort of vulgar humour which would be more at home in a Farrelly Brothers gross-out comedy than in a supposedly serious film. I would not, however, agree with the criticism some have made that the film demeans African-Americans by showing them as dependent upon whites for their emancipation. It is the black characters here who display real courage in bringing their working conditions to public notice, far more so than does Skeeter. She risks nothing worse than losing the friendship of a few people she never cared for in the first place; they risk the loss of their jobs and their livelihoods, and possibly also violence from white racists.

Despite my criticisms, I felt that overall "The Help" was an excellent film- a well-acted, emotionally satisfying human drama with some powerful acting performances, and one which shed an interesting light on this period of American history. 8/10
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Ready to burst . . .
jdesando11 August 2011
I grew up in the 60's, the setting for The Help, a story of Southern prejudice and cruelty toward African Americans, who were chattel of the Southern rich treating their servants as expendable and marginal. I can say that as a Northerner with a black maid for our household, there was love but always a barrier, a carryover from the strict separation still prevailing after reconstruction.

Director Tate Taylor keeps the race relations taut but not strident, as if we were living through the emerging civil rights movement slowly but inevitably aimed at equality, not "separate but equal." Skeeter (Emma Stone) graduates, returns to Jackson, Miss., and decides to write about the black help, whose "perspective' needs to be told. As more maids join in the writing of the manuscript, the more possible it is to counter the assassination of Medgar Evers and eventually that of Martin Luther King.

While we have grown used to the base scatological humor of the Hangovers, Change-UP, and other rom-coms, the fundament motif in The Help is as low-key as will ever be depicted in film. Not only is the idea of the bad guys "eating s—t" effective, it is funny and poignant.

A note about the performances—Bryce Dallas Howard as the conservative, prejudiced Hilly, is remarkably successful, making her a full-fledged actress and not just a famous director's daughter. Jessica Chastain as the ditzy but big-hearted Celia Foote cements her place as a great modern actress following her memorable role as the compliant wife in Tree of Life. Emma Stone no longer need rely on rom-coms, for she stars in The Help with a performance nuanced and underplayed, just the way I like it, albeit a bit too hip for the times.

Although the film tends toward the simplistic, e.g., there are no bad blacks and most whites are obtuse, Viola Davis as maid Aibileen Clark successfully carries the film displaying the ambivalent nature of slavery ready to burst out of its chains.
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Powerful movie
muyoyeta3 September 2011
Look folks, I'm not the one to go watch a movie and then come and write a review. This is very rare, in fact this is the first time. First of all, I'm a black middle-aged male living in Australia. I'm not into that black-white-red-yellow affirmative action, divide or whatever you call it and I have not experienced that American slavery or racism history except seeing it presented one-sided or biased on TV.

Now having proclaimed my neutrality above, I will tell you this: this is one powerful movie that will sure touch and move you in one way or another whatever your political lining. The casting, directing and acting are top-of-the-shelf superb A+++. When my wife first told me about it, I said OK whatever. Man was I wrong! I cried and laughed at the same throughout the movie, and I'm a dude and where I come from men are not supposed to show their soft side. All I can say is go see the movie and it will be worth it.
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finallyajerseygirl23 June 2011
I saw a preview of this film a few weeks ago in Philadelphia. I am huge fan of the book and could not wait to see the movie. I was not disappointed. I LOVED this movie. I have not seen anything more moving or more real in such a long time.

The movie stays very close to the book. The book has a bit more details, but all the parts of the book that make it so great were in the movie. There was not a thing missed in the screenplay.

The characters come alive on the screen. There is no stretch of imagination. The casting is perfect.

Go see this, you will not be disappointed!
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Safe Fluff
twim2311 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers

I went and saw The Help last night.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't as offensive as "The Blind Side" (ala the big overgrown, illiterate, strong as an ox, loyal, gullible, clown saved by a white Christian savior caricature) but the overall story was pretty watered down.

The acting is solid, but I was torn about this movie. It does elicit the "Great White Hope" character, in that the maids only come together through the unlikely liberalism and goodness of a young white character. Its message for the future is also disturbing. For example, toward the end, one maid is offered salvation by a white couple who offers her the security of being their maid for the REST OF HER LIFE...a deal that makes her eyes grow wide with happiness. Meanwhile, the main white character goes off to greener pastures outside the limitations of her town.

There are also some unsettling a "Mammy" figure who gets misty eyed when she talks about how frying chicken makes her feel good inside.

I think they were pretty spot on in the portrayal of the white "southern belles (given that I'm from Jackson myself)." They were mostly ridiculous, petty and cold...which, to my understanding, is how they really were. It makes for some good comedic moments.

This is a "safe" film...there's no violence, and the threat of violence doesn't feel very immediate or nearby. The racism of the day feels like an omniscient boogey-man...and the white men in the film are all portrayed in an indifferent "they could care less" light...which seems VERY unbelievable. And the Black men were either abusive, docile or messengers...I mean, not a single, strong Black man?

The real sad thing about this film is what it says about Black progress in Hollywood. I haven't seen "real" roles for black women this year...and it's telling that the project that employs the most black women at once is one where they all have to play maids. Even in a trailer shown before this film for "Tower Heist," Gabourey Sidibe (from "Precious") is playing a maid...complemented by Eddie Murphy playing a convict with expert knowledge on robberies. So, blacks are either subservient, criminals, comedic clowns...or the ever present "token black friend." The exception to this rule are the few Blacks that are seen as being "negro-lite"...e.g. Will Smith, Halle Berry and Beyonce.

Many whites don't understand why Blacks are sensitive to their portrayals on film...but whites have to have an abundance of images to choose from. However, we have very few. Imagine taking your children to the movies...and the people that look like them, on screen, are usually stupefied, marginalized, subservient or comedic to the point of buffoorney. That's not the reality whites EVER have to accept, adapt to or address. This is not playing the race there is no card to play when this is your life.

My grandmother was a maid, like these women in the film. She went to work every day for the local car dealer's family...doing housework, cooking their meals and taking care of their kids for $5/day. She supplemented her income ironing white people's clothes from town. She raised 10 kids and helped with the war effort at home. While a film like "The Help" gives her a voice, it also robs her of hope that things will get better. After all, one maid quits her job even though her options are extremely limited and she has jeopardized her own safety by helping Skeeter...the other maid accepts a position to be the lifetime maid of another couple and then leaves her abusive husband...and the third maid that we come to know is rotting in jail. The only people who make out with better futures are the white characters....Skeeter is off to New York. Celia learns how to cook and, through the "wisdom" of her maid, learns how to communicate with her husband and develops self worth. The young white child Viola was raising may get a "fighting chance" because Viola tells her mother to give her one. And Hilly may actually become a better person who's finally learned the error of her ways.

Finally, there is one part that really summarized this whole film to me. At one point, Skeeter is sitting at Viola Davis's table. She asks her if she ever wanted to do anything else rather than be a maid. Viola Davis nods...and Skeeter never follows up with her to ask her what she wanted to do. My feeling was she didn't ask because it was irrelevant...irrelevant to the story and to the reality of the time. Black women didn't have choices, so there was no reason to speak of dreams that they both knew were empty.

All in all, I think this film is a nice effort for what it was, and fluff for what it was not.

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A Nutshell Review: The Help
DICK STEEL23 October 2011
The Help is one of the many films that's set in the 60s that deals with themes like prejudice and racism involving segregation amongst the Whites and the African Americans in Jackson, Mississippi, but having the very same themes also being relevant in society today even here in Singapore especially, with recent talk and focus on the issue of domestic help and our attitudes toward household maids that many employ for various reasons, who assist in looking after the children and the elderly, as well as to keep home while the rest of the adults are neck deep in economic pursuits. While racism is generally kept under control here, there are niggling incidents that pop up every now and then, so clearly we're not off the hook and there will always be individuals who choose intolerance.

Granted that racism back then was more pronounced especially during that era put on film, the story's based on an international bestseller written by Kathryn Stockett, and over here we're bound to identify with the issues highlighted especially in the horror stories you'd hear with regards to the treatment of domestic help, with abuse cases that make you sit up and wonder why we are capable of such inhumane acts. And the worst of all involves being hypocritical, putting on a false front for society, while clearly behaving like the devil when behind closed doors. The bottom line is, we're all humans and we share similar hopes and dreams whatever our skin colour, language and where we're from, in desiring a comfortable life filled with love, with a roof over our heads, food and community, friends and family we can turn to in times of need.

Which is why this film has themes and a poignant, thought provoking narrative that screams relevance, especially for those closeted intolerant few who must watch this, and reflect. Emma Stone stars as Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, an aspiring journalist who has returned home only to find out that the group of peers she had grown up with, are leading a lifestyle of superficial leisure, saying a lot of things, but meaning nothing. And for all their cliquish behaviour in cruelly treating one of their own as a social outcast (Jessica Chastain from The Tree of Life), for an ulterior reason only Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) knows, what more their household maids who have to slog with the chores, be that surrogate mother to their kids, be at their beck and call, and being given attitude, stick, and threats of the sack?

Given the tension all round during the time, it's no wonder that Skeeter's plans to want to highlight The Help's predicament and provide them with a voice, no doubt also serving as a ticket for her journalistic ambitions to embark on a career in New York, all met with stone walled silence, until Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) decided that enough is enough, and begin opening up to Skeeter as research material, becoming her insights and perspective on how the African American help get treated in White households. And besides Aibileen's point of view, her friend Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) also chipped in, and both represent the broad spectrum of heartfelt accounts both good and bad, though largely negative, with the tacit understanding with Skeeter that they are not to be referred to directly.

It's one of those powerful films that takes the ugly side of humanity and presents it to us face on, to confront how cruel some of us can be, and what the strong amongst us must do to act and help those who are weak or bullied. Director Tate Taylor, who also wrote the screenplay, focuses on the tales crafted around the households both Aibileen and Minny serve, from being treated like dirt to forming firm friendships with some of the people they know and serve, such as Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), as a reminder on how we should never judge a book by its cover, being obviously relevant when one gets handed one's fate for being of a certain skin colour. You may think that this may be a heavy film with all its seriousness, but trust me there is enough light hearted, even heart warming moments scattered throughout, though counter-balanced with moments of fear that will make you worry for the characters since mob mentality can lead to anything.

Emma Stone normally plays kooky characters of late, so this was perfect opportunity for her to shine in more serious drama which she does adequately. But she got upstaged by both Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, the former who brought a certain quiet dignity to her role which just calls for respect, and the latter being the comic relief as a really straight-talker, and whose story was probably the most touching in the film, with one of the funniest, running gag in the later half. Bryce Dallas Howard also owned her role as the antagonist Hilly in the film, and if you'd think she's only capable of goody two shoes roles, think again as she can convincingly play back-stabbers, with Sissy Spacek in a supporting role as Hilly's mom.

The Help reminds us of how one has to have Fear and Courage to addresses changes in community or the larger society we serve in, without which we would all be poorer for it. It may be almost 2 1/2 hours long, but it's every minute worth it just watching how an uphill battle was fought, and baby steps being taken each time to overcome obstacles placed in the characters' way. It's guaranteed that you'll laugh and you'll cry in the film thanks to its material, and it's firmly one of the contenders to be amongst my favourite films of this year. Highly recommended!
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A Disservice to Important History
mmukasa29 February 2012
This film uses every cliché in the book starting with the liberal minded white person who is the voice of conscience and the long suffering good hearted but somewhat simplistic black people.This film is emotionally manipulative and panders to a sentimental reduction of complex history. Its moves were predictable and uses every trick in the book, even the scene in the church is cliché. Both the white and the black characters are mostly reductive caricatures out of some story book world which doesn't do justice to the historical complexity of such situations. Why would you want to make a saccharine comic book out of profound historical situations-- other than to pander to audiences longing for a feel good experience for the sake of box office. I actually don't mean to disrespect to people who like it, and I don't want to attack the actors. They didn't write the film, but at the same time, I can't believe that so many people fell for this bag of tricks. Still, a bigger problem and disservice a movie like this does to our culture is that such bad history and simplistic human portrayals turns race dynamics into good guy bad guy stories which we can watch with a complacent feeling of how much better we are than those bad old days. Such complacency leads to a historical ignorance that retards honest critique and real progress. This movie would be better if it just didn't pretend to be about something. Let it be some sappy comic book. That wouldn't be the worse thing in the world. At least it would be more honest.
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Cartoon caricatures trivialize in black and white,
Rob-O-Cop27 December 2011
This movie wasn't badly made, it's just bad that it was made. In it every character is a cliché cartoon in support of a fictional rose coloured glasses version of 60's America, where almost every white person is a villain and every black person loves fried chicken. If this is how America learns its history (and judging by the reviews where many have viewed this film as having a positive and accurate message of hope and struggle????), then no wonder the western world is in trouble. Is it worse that a story about the struggle of black people to overcome oppression in racist 60s America is centered on a privileged white woman on the road to New York success? Marginalized yet again it seems. This movie started out as passable entertainment but by the time it crossed the finished line it had stepped full force into misguided and offensive. And shockingly many people seem to not know the difference.
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Hold on just a minute - cartoon city
lesdroits14 January 2012
Well, I grew up during this period in the south and we always had a black maid. We loved our black maid Veronica (first black person I'd ever seen and I thought she was made of my favorite stuff -- chocolate), and our family corresponded with her (and sent her money) for years after we moved. Other families had black maids and no one ever, ever, ever, ever, ever talked about them or treated them the way they are in this film (haven't read the book) but instead with value and respect, though within the confines of the segregationist times. That whole bathroom issue --silly, never happened that I witnessed or heard of.

Don't get me wrong: It was certainly a period and relationship worth examination from our more modern era. I can recall at one point going out to visit our maid who was sick. She lived on a piece of farmland -- had all these children, our counterpart, and we played together while parents visited, though I was aware that it was like looking in a mirror, dark on other side.

And one can bemoan the disparity of the period (but we still have it though) and still-rampart racism back then that was just taken for granted by everyone. But, no, ma'am, nothing about this movie rang true beyond the fact that the maids were always black, generally poorer, and, yes, helped raise white babies (sang to them, fed them, fussed at them, did their -- my -- hair). Maybe there was just some peculiar cesspool in Jackson, but if anyone had acted like the villain did where we lived, she'd probably be sent for mental treatment (actually not, but everyone would know she was insane).

And by the way, no one back then said "Damn" in front of a woman (opening scene), "Jesus" as a cuss-word (opening scene), and heaven forbid "Sh-t" (many times) which I never once heard in my life until college.

In summary, this movie struck me as a bit of a cartoon. Plunked down in a real period lifestyle are cartoonish villains as well as cartoonish heroines. Guess you needed to put in such stuff for Hollywood. Or maybe the writer added it to finally get sold. Too bad.
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Anachronistic, melodramatic take on discrimination against civil rights era domestic workers
Turfseer7 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
'The Help' is a well-meaning attempt to educate the film going public about the civil rights era in the deep South through the perspective of the relationship between black maids and their white female employers.  Author Kathryn Stockett, who wrote the book on which the film is based, does well in reminding us that the black 'help' not only had to endure the threat of violence as a result of the encroaching backlash from white racists upset over a new black militancy in southern communities, but also had to deal with a multiplicity of indignities on the drab domestic front, including being forced to use separate bathrooms in the homes of their white female employers.  Not only does Hilly Holbrook (the film's principal 'villain') enforce this rule in her own home and influences her immediate neighbors to follow suit, but lobbies local politicians in order to have her racist initiative be codified into law.

While Hilly may be a tad bit melodramatic as Stockett's 'Cruella de Vil', she is undoubtedly the most compelling character in the entire film. Stockett also does well with Elizabeth Leefolt, Aibileen's racist employer, who is perhaps more repulsive than Hilly, in that she does not have the self-awareness to realize that she is an incompetent mother. Occasionally, Stockett even suggests that some of oppressed maids may not have all their moral compasses in order. In perhaps one of the most interesting scenes in the film (due to the ambiguity), one of the maids is roughly pulled off a bus and arrested by seemingly racist, redneck policeman. I could hear the indignant sounds of the audience suddenly go quiet, when it's revealed that the maid arrested was the one who pilfered a diamond ring that had fallen behind a cabinet in the home of one of the white employers.

Despite Stockett's noble attempt to relate the atmosphere of institutional racism so prevalent in the south during early 1960s, her main character, Skeeter, feels wholly anachronistic. It's as if Stockett projected her own modern day sensibility on to Skeeter and asks us to believe that such a character would have existed at that time. If there were progressive minded white liberals participating in the civil rights movement in the early 60s, usually they came from the north and were often met with outright violence. To have such a progressive minded white female from the south take up the cause of the oppressed black 'help', let alone create a book based on interviews with such women, is simply wish fulfillment on the part of the author. Stockett is obviously trying to mitigate some of her own guilt by creating the illusory, "feel-good" character of Skeeter. No book like "The Help" ever appeared in the early 60s and it would have never been published at that time.

There's another reason why 'The Help' makes little sense. Why would "The Help" ever agree to Skeeter's plan? They certainly receive little financial compensation for their efforts and in the end, they're only setting themselves up for retaliation. A character in a book might take some satisfaction in mouthing off against an employer who subjects them to racist humiliation, but in the real world (and especially in the 60s deep South), one doesn't 'talk back', unless one wants to lose their sole source of support. Of course there were individual black women who worked as maids who could have 'talked back' and lost their jobs, but to suggest such a large group of women agreed to interviews en masse, is another one of Stockett's 'feel-good' conceits!

While all those juicy interviews Stockett collected from the 'Help' may have worked in the book, the stories come off as dry recitations in the film. We don't actually experience the maids' stories visually—they are merely communicated to Skeeter during the interviews. Obviously, flashbacks wouldn't have worked during the interview scenes since there were too many of them. Stockett's other big problem with the 'Help' is that she's forced to place her main 'Help' characters on a pedestal. Yes Aibileen and Minny ARE victims but can they do no wrong? It may have been a more interesting story if "The Help" were REALLY told from their perspective. Stockett unfortunately is unable to make the Help's world come alive—do they actually have a back story? (the best we get is an allusion to Minny's "abusive" husband who never appears on screen). Or is everything defined by their relationship to the white world?

Stockett resorts to melodramatic form, by offering up storytelling akin to a decidedly unsubtle 'quid pro quo.' You have your evil Hilly and then you need to counter it with the ditsy but kind Cecelia Foote, another unbelievable character designed to prove that whites weren't all that bad during the era. Even Charlotte, Skeeter's mother, must be subject to Stockett's quid pro quo treatment (Charlotte channels Hilly when she banishes beloved family maid Constantin in order to appease her racist club members but then sticks up for Skeeter when Hilly tries to blackmail her daughter).

Worst of all are Stockett's male characters who are practically non-existent in the film. I didn't buy for one second that Skeeter would have actually been attracted to the boyfriend and gone out with him for a time. Wouldn't she have clarified from the beginning that he was a racist and had nothing to do with him?

For those who are interested in getting a better picture of black life during the civil rights era, can I recommend the classic 1964 picture, 'Nothing But a Man'? 'The Help' only seems to suggest that white people deserve more credit than they really should receive for aiding black people in their quest for social equality and justice.
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Civil RIghts for the Eat Pray Love set
withoutahat21 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
For people who've never seen a movie depicting the civil rights movement, this would not be a good place to start. If you watched it and found it 'entertaining', then shame on you. Making up a story about this time to entertain and manipulate for profit is pretty despicable in my view, and I'm afraid I'm incredibly disappointed that this film seems to be getting positive reviews on here.

If you lack education and a general sense of right and wrong - this is the film for you. There are so many important great works in film and in literature on the era and topic. How did this get made? It's also racist in and of itself in its depiction of black people and the white people are so disgusting and caricatures of evil. It's entertaining only if you are almost completely ignorant of that period of time - for the rest of us it's just offensive. It's also got that well worn trope of the black women helping a white woman to succeed / act as an apologist for (here's the spoiler) her taking off to NY in her big successful career while one happily continues to be beaten by her husband and the other loses her job.

100 thumbs down.

P.S. I'm not alone: "The Association of Black Women Historians finds it unacceptable for either this book or this film to strip black women's lives of historical accuracy for the sake of entertainment." Yes!
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Serious doubts about this
bbewnylorac5 March 2012
At first, I loved this film. Great acting, a solid plot and script, gorgeous costumes, sets and locations. But in thinking about it and by reading the other reviews, I realised I had missed some key points. I must emphasise that the movie is certainly well-meaning and sincere. Yet while it purports to be about black rights in the South of the 1950s and 1960s, the heroine is Skeeter (Emma Stone) a wealthy white woman. Maybe this makes the movie more appealing to white audiences? Isn't it a little patronising that the young journalist Skeeter is the one who gets the black women recognition, who encourages them (and enables them) to tell their stories and to rebel against their oppressors? As if they can't do it themselves? And isn't it a little revisionist (historically) to imply that there would have existed, in those times, a pure-hearted, heroic white woman like Skeeter, who not only sought to save, but succeeded in saving, black maids' dignity? Does this premise let whites off the hook for all the indignities and wrongs they perpetrated on blacks in real life? Saying to white audiences, ''hey, don't feel so guilty about your oppression of blacks - not all of you discriminated''. I suppose you could counter-argue that maybe in such a situation as in The Help, a white person was the one who had the social and political clout to effect change. Other issues with The Help include that for most of the movie Skeeter has it both ways -- while she is secretly plotting for change, she continues to enjoy life as a willing participant in her overtly racist circle of friends. For most of the movie, she doesn't really challenge them on their horrible acts of exclusion and prejudice. Also, as others have pointed out, at the end, Skeeter gets to skip off into the sunset, to a great job in the big city, while the maids who rebelled presumably have to stay and be unemployed or face continued discrimination in their home town.
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This best-selling novel adaptation is a light, silly, poo based Hollywood drama.
tombrookes20079 January 2012
I was disappointed by this light Movie version of a great book, which it is not 100% true to. The light, fluffy, glossy look and woeful acting (from a good female ensemble cast) strips away the suffering and hardship reducing the feeling for the characters (which should be it's focus). Instead of staying truly serious to the subject matter this is flipped into an ugly light-hearted entertainment journey (trying to create the Helps versus the nasty white housewives).

The film was interesting but limited, with most of the second half giggling and obsessed with a 'poo pie' and failed to show the 'Help's' as anything other than minimally reluctant nannies (not slaves).

I would wash away my small memories of this film, in a way that would sum up this forgettable, washy, disappointment of a film. I think too much fun was had, and ultimately was the focus, of a Mississippi history lesson that never took off. 'To Kill A Mocking bird' this most definitely isn't!
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trite nonsense
keith-61822 December 2012
This is like one of those afternoon made for TV "life affirming" dramas. Full of sugar, whimsy and wholesomeness but totally lacking in truth and bite. Ugh! The performances are almost uniformly two dimensional - even Allison Janney opted for cartoon like characterisation. The period detail is sometimes accurate but occasionally glaringly inaccurate. For example no girl in the early 60s would have worn her hair in Emma Stone's hopelessly anachronistic style. I blame Tate Taylor who was credited with the screenplay and direction. Apparently Taylor was born in Jackson and is a close friend of Kathryn Stockett. Can this really be how Ms Stockett wished her novel to be brought to the screen? But there again I haven't read the novel. Could it be full of the same yukky apple pie philosophy?
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Exploits real suffering, and panders for sympathy without doing anything genuine
bopdog11 August 2011
This is a hard film to adequately review, because so much is right with it, yet at the same time so much is wrong. Or if not "wrong," at least there are some major tones that simply did not work for me.

The cast is spectacular. Emma Stone is not just adorable, but a skilled and marvelous actor. You don't need me to remark that she has a stellar career ahead of her. The rest of the cast includes some of those great character actors you see in the better films, but can't quite remember where you've seen them before. but that's a plus for a character actor, as their appearances, therefore, always seems fresh.

It feels very awkward for me to mention the tone that felt wrong. The abuse and inhumane treatment endured by black people 50 years ago is hard to watch today. The pain inflicted, and the behavior of the oppressors can only be called an "evil" situation. One hopes that evolution has done its work, and social justice prevails today. If not perfectly, then at least to a tolerable degree.

But that is part of the problem, to me. This film seems to merely recycle old tropes of injustice. It seems to be, as one of my professors used to call it, a "pot stirrer." Lots of agitation and angst and shame and sympathy just for the sake of chaos--- but here it doesn't seem to be authentic. It certainly doesn't seem to go anywhere. It's almost as if the writer has taken an easy issue guaranteed to provoke outrage and anger, rather than doing the authentic, and difficult, artistic work necessary to invoke compassion and healing. This film might be, to be blunt, merely counterfeit social justice. It might be a brazen attempt to "push buttons" for undeserved sympathy. I sincerely hope I am mistaken, and overly unkind.

Granted, that's a subtle point. But that's also why I found the theme of the film a bit objectionable- it seemed as if the filmmakers were taking advantage of most people's natural and gut-level decency to elicit an audience response on a tabloid level.

Further, who would DARE to criticize this film? It's almost as if it were "criticism proof." Therefore unsound dramatic treatments will go by without comment. Given that I think that was done deliberately, even if somewhat unconsciously, this movie takes an honorable and lofty struggle for which many people suffered and even died, and shamelessly exploits that to make a few bucks at the box office. Think about it- what insights or "new" themes were introduced here? I'd say none. It may be an example of what Plato called "pandering," going for the cheap points via a stimulus-response fest.

I hope I am wrong- I hope it is really just a matter of me not responding to this particular cinematic venture. If I am even partly right, however, it bodes ill for our modern shallow and thoughtless "junk media" environment.
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