Movie Review: "The Help"

Jackson Mississippi, the center hot bed of unrest during a movement which would come to change the US and the South forever… The Civil Rights Movement. In Jackson, the top of society are the ladies who lunch. Those beautiful Jr. League women who live for their bridge clubs, their charity events and of course being the top of the society pile. Children and household came second only to the latest hair and dress; those trifles they left to the silent, colored, partners who ran their homes, raised their babies and disappeared behind closed door into the evenings each night… the help.

Touchstone Pictures and DreamWorks Studios along with Imagination Abu Dhabi FZ bring you a film not to be missed, “The Help”, based on the most talked about and brilliantly written novel by the same name by Katheryn Stockett. Imagine in this world of beauty, grace, good manners and good breeding where these girls are brought up to believe that there is nothing more than being accepted and revered as society ladies. But just beneath this layer of beauty is the ugly reality of racism and bigotry against the black community of Jackson and the country. The Help, which raise their children, clean their houses and cook their meals, are treated as second class citizens, unimportant and mistreated. Yet they feel tied and obligated to serve their employers and the children which they come to love as their own.

Meet Skeeter (Emma Stone, Easy A, Super Bad), a girl in her early 20s who aspires to be a writer. She has been brought up in the world of Southern Society but has always felt she didn’t quite belong. As she begins her career as a columnist for the local paper she starts to really see the “friends” she’s grown up with for who they really are.  And what she sees is ugly. She begins a friendship, of sorts, with Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis, Nights in the Rodanth, Solaris) the black house maid/ nanny who’s raised 17 babies in her tenure as a household worker. She works for the neglectful Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O’Reily, The Vampire Diaries, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) who is more concerned with following in the footsteps of bully and society Queen Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard, The Village, Lady in the Water) who by all accounts is a Goddess and a monster.

Skeeter decides to challenge herself by beginning the process of writing a book based on the experiences of Jackson’s black maids and their hardships. This is met by fear, resistance and anonymity by the black women in this community. Skeeter, trying as hard as possible to get her book under way, believes in her project and convinces Aibileen to talk to her about her experiences both good and bad. After a particularly ugly incident between Hilly and her cook Minny (Octavia Spencer, Dinner for Shmucks, Wizards of Waverly Place) Skeeter and Aibileen are able to convince her to open up about her experiences as well. Between the three women there is an understanding that this must be kept secret as they are all worried about being lynched or shot by snipers at night. However, after the community is stunned at the arrest and assault of a fellow maid and neighbor who has been accused of theft by non other than Hilly Hollbrook herself the community comes together to tell all of their disturbing, tragic, hateful, and funny stories. What is born from this is a secret and controversial book released on to the people of Jackson and revealing the ugly truths behind its prim and proper society. 

This film will bring you to tears, of joy, laughter and sadness. It reminds us that not too long ago the words “separate but equal” were an ugly lie that was disguised as the best way for society to be. It reveals the sadness that so many went thru and the trials and challenges as well. How beautiful change can be and how frightening it was to be strong in those times. It is brilliantly written and directed and the cast shines! With other supporting cast such as the brilliant Allison Janny (West Wing, American Beauty) as Charlotte, Skeeter’s mother who is dying of Cancer but never loses her spunk; who has spent her life working towards becoming the true society lady and in the process forgot who her daughter really is but discovers with abandon that her child has grown to not only be beautiful but strong and just. And of course Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life) as the unrefined, country girl turned, wealthy wanna be society lady Cynthia Foote, who wants nothing more than to belong but finds herself on the same level as the black maids in Jackson. This movie turns your head and makes you think.

In a world of injustice, change does begin with a small, timid whisper. And these women find strength in each other and in themselves. I found this movie truly unforgettable and gorgeously envisioned. I tip my hat to them all. I sincerely hope that this movie moves you and makes you take stock in our world, and helps you look at your neighbor in a new light, for the ones we may see as below us are just like us in many ways and that color is just skin deep.

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