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The Help

The Help

What She said:

She

The Help takes you into the world of 1960s Mississippi, with a culture that was both racist and sexist.  The high-class white girls were mostly concerned with getting married and being stay-at-home moms, and yet did very little of their own parenting or housekeeping, instead relying almost entirely on their black maids.  Emma Stone plays Skeeter, a woman a bit ahead of the curve.  Yes, she grew up pretty typically for the area, but unlike her friends she has more of an open mind.  She begins to see the injustices that the maids endure—a lack of respect, separate bathrooms, minimal pay.  An aspiring journalist, Skeeter decides to document and expose the true life of the help, observing her friends and family and interviewing their maids.

The movie deals with some pretty serious themes, and has its downer moments, but overall is fairly uplifting.  The story is interesting, although it doesn’t get too heavy, which could actually be a slight flaw.  It may actually gloss over a few things.  I think the real jewel of The Help are its performances.  Bryce Dallas Howard is absolutely evil.  I mean pure evil.  And Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer also shine.  The emotion that they put into their characters is quite memorable. 

The movie seemed very long, but overall I enjoyed it.  It was a bit light, but not superficial.  And there’s a great moment of satisfaction involving a chocolate cream pie…

Thumbs up.

What he said:

He

I know it happened and the cynic in me has no problem comprehending it did, but still seeing racism in action – even in fiction – still shocks me.  The amount of stupidity and ignorance it takes to actually dislike someone based on something such as the color of their skin or some other insignificant factor is astounding. It actually takes effort to be that stupid.

Take the way the characters in this movie treat their help vs the way their children treat the help. The kids don’t care what color their nannies are and in most cases actually loved their nannies very much; because their lazy, wannabe socialite asses were too busy ignoring them. My point is that at some point in those adults’ lives, someone taught them you are to treat the help a certain way.

Never is that type of ignorance more evident than it is in Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, Hilly Hollbrook. She’s the head bee of this little beehive.  Charities, social events, you name it, she is the one in charge of it. All of the gals emulate her and when she says that every house should be equipped with a separate bathroom for the help, they all fall right in line. This plot point is a metaphor for just how poorly maids, gardeners, and other hired help were being treated at this point in history.

However, in a land of insanity there is a ray of hope. Skeeter (Emma Stone) is shocked when she returns to her hometown from college to see how some of her childhood friends treat their maids. She has fond memories of her nanny Constantine. When she sees how the other members of the community treat their hired help, she feels compelled to do something about it.

Skeeter gets a job writing a small column at a local newspaper. It’s just a paycheck. Her real ambition is to write a book, so when she sees how the help is treated she sees her opportunity to make a different. She begins to recruit some of the local maids and records their stories. After some initial reluctance, she gets some takers. All the names are changed for safety purposes, but the stories are real. The two maids to lead the way are Abilieen (Viola Davis) and Octavia (Minny Jackson). Together these three characters do some things that begins get some attention; some good some bad.

There is some really great chemistry between the actors here.  All three of the ladies do a fantastic job. You really feel like you are watching a new friendship being born here. Their story feels very authentic.

Bryce Dallas Howard also does an absolutely fantastic job playing the bratty – if not evil – antagonist Hilly Hollbrook. She really does a good job of making you hate this woman.

I’d also like to tip my hat to Jessica Chastain. She played the flighty outcast Celia Foote; who experiences some discrimination of her own. Hilly and her gang put this girl through the ringer.

This is the textbook definition of a drama. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, and it is bound to entertain you. It’s an all-around solid movie.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was given the He said, She said seal of approval on January 11, 2012.