The Help (2011)

the help poster 2011 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 8/10

Nice acting by Davis, Spencer, Chastain, and Howard

Simplifies the situation too much

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Help

Studio: DreamWorks Pictures

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s): August 10, 2011

MPAA Rating: PG-13


Great another party

It is the early 1960s and much of the country is still divided.  In Jackson, Mississippi, African-American servants come into the home, clean it, raise the children, but aren’t trusted as equals.  Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) hopes to change that when she learns the maid Constantine (Cicely Tyson) who help raised her was fired.  Skeeter decides to write a book telling the maids perspectives if she can get them to talk.  She finds help in Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer).  Telling their stories about people like the social outcast Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) and the separatist socialite Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Howard) could be dangerous and Skeeter needs more maids for her effort to work.

Directed by Tate Taylor, The Help is an adaptation of Kathryn Stockett 2009 novel .  Critics loved The Help and Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain have all been praised for their performances.  The movie won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Spencer) with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress (Davis), and Best Supporting Actress (Chastain).


You want me to use what restroom?

The story of The Help is an interesting and thought provoking story in that it is obscene that people would have been so cold to the same people they trust with their children which should be their priority.  Davis is the typical “baby raising” type of maid and she offers that perspective throughout the film on what it is like to essentially raise others children but not have the ability to step in and actually criticize the parenting.  It is also interesting where she talks about how the babies that essentially were her children would often transition into people who treat their maids cruelly.


Follow the Yellow Brick Road!

While Davis’ storyline is more dramatic and sad, Octavia’s storyline (she primarily cleans & cooks) has some levity to it with the addition of the bubbly Chastain character.  It isn’t all perfect but some moments in that story do allow a little laugh and help to highlight the problems not scene by the other character through Chastain’s introduction to the new society.  It was a bit obvious what the “bad thing” Octavia did to Bryce Howard’s character was, so it wasn’t that big of a shock when it was revealed (though the scene was good).

With Chastain, Spencer, and Davis hogging the spotlight it is easy to forget that Bryce Howard does a great job as the evil Hilly.  It can be easy to be bad but she does seem to relish the way she controls the lives of the people in her service be it her maids or Skeeter who seems to be the only person who has ever halfway stood up to her.  It is too bad that there are a number of good performances in this movie because there would be a good chance that she would be recognized too in the Supporting Actress category.


How about some pie?

The problem with The Help is that it is too easy.  I’m not a big fan of “issue” pictures, but the idea of issues happening in a subculture of the maid world of Jackson is interesting because it is happening in conjunction with the bigger Civil Rights movement.  I just can’t see however that the book written by Skeeter wouldn’t end in some night time “justice” against the maids who spoke in the book.  If a kid can be killed for whistling at a white woman at the time, telling a story about a woman eating a crap-laced pie definitely is an offense that could get you killed.  All Hilly would have to do is point the finger to certain people who would do cowardly attacks at night, and she would never be connected (especially since everyone was already talking).  The movie just assumes that the book would come out and everyone would be shocked but there would be no big retaliation or mass firing.

The Help is more about the acting than the story.  If nothing else see it for that.  There is often a criticism of the lack of strong roles for African-Americans in film but this movie provided two strong roles and both are being justly recognized.  It does have a very “chick-flick” feel to it, but don’t let it scare you off.  There are much worse movies that a guy could be forced to sit through.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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