There is absolutely nothing wrong with The Help.
In fact, it’s been a very long time since a movie has moved me to the degree that this film did. I was caught off guard both by how much it touched me and how much I was affected by the performances of everyone involved with the film. By everyone, I mean the greatness of this movie goes beyond the brilliant performance of this ensemble cast. It transcends the writing that was the basis of the story. Powered by a director who is literally coming out of nowhere, The Help will be this generation’s memorable movie much in the same vein as Forrest Gump.
The eagerly anticipated film adaptation of the best-selling novel by Kathyrn Stockett had been getting a lot of buzz for many reasons. Will the film be faithful to a book that millions have fallen in love with? Is Bryce Dallas Howard worthy of all of the praise she has been receiving for her role in the film? Is Emma Stone capable of not only carrying a film at this early point in her burgeoning career, but could she keep up with a group of some of the most serious actors put together?
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes.
All of the buzz, the hype and the attention this film has been receiving is well-deserved and after seeing it, I can say that it has been well-earned. Every piece of the filmmaking puzzle came together to create something that was not only a joy to watch, it will be watched over and over again by our kids and their kids.
The funny thing is that I had initially dismissed this movie as another one of those Oprah-type ‘everyone has to read books being made into a movie’. As we know, Oprah doesn’t have the greatest track record picking blockbusters and the fact this is opening in August didn’t help. In spite of these perceived obstacles, I am very glad that I was given the opportunity to see it.
When broaching the subject matter of slavery, civil rights and equality it is obvious that one must approach carefully and with respect. When it comes to making a movie about these subjects, it is very easy to ride the cliché bandwagon and make a movie that just is meant to feel good. This movie definitely set a new tone for this type of storytelling as it did not score cheap points with the easy fix. It made us feel good, bad, angry, frustrated, sad and joyful. Not an easy feat and that is why it works.
The movie is powered by some brilliant decisions by the director. His pacing was perfect, his choice for the cast was inspired and quite frankly the smartest thing he did was to pick this brilliant cast and let them do what they do best.
And oh what a cast.
I have said this before many times and I am glad that I am able to say this again, Emma Stone is such a huge talent and lately her abilities are really starting to show. With this role of Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, she really showed her dramatic side. Don’t get me wrong, she is not exactly a strung out drug-addict, however her performance provided the anchor for all of the other fantastic performances. I am going to go on the record and say that Emma Stone is going to be the next Meryl Streep, she is that good. It might be too early to say something like that, however I stand firm on my convictions.
When we start getting into Bryce Dallas Howard’s performance, we have to start our conversation about the Oscars because quite frankly this movie and specifically her performance is a really early shot across the bow. Will this get Bryce Dallas Howard her Oscar Nomination? – hands down yes. Her performance playing the very racist Hilly Holbrook is not an easy part. It takes quite a bit of skill for someone to be disliked as much as the audience grows to dislike Hilly and that anger is cultivated by the perfectly nuanced performance of Howard. So much so that an Oscar nom is definitely not too far out of reach.
The Help played by the tandem of the Oscar-nominated Viola Davis who played Aibileen Clark and Octavia Spencer played Minny Jackson (who rose to the challenge of this role very adeptly) are to be commended and even celebrated if The Academy was to see fit. Both funny and searingly honest, we were drawn into their plight from the very beginning as a result of some poignant and honest portrayals that I imagine in some instances could not have been easy to film.
There were a few surprises for me and some things that I was just happy to see. Jessica Chastain, who is now one of my actors to watch after delivering a surprisingly riveting performance in Tree of Life, really brought it with her performance of Celia Foote. Anna O’Reilly who played Elizabeth Leefoit, Anna Camp who played Jolene French, Chris Lowell who played Skeeter’s boyfriend and Mike Vogel who played Johnny Foote, Celia’s husband (who wasn’t in the film for too long but delivered a great performance in a key scene towards the end) all rose to the challenge of this script, this director and the gravitas that the more established actors in the rest of the ensemble brought.
I am a huge fan of Alison Janney from her days of West Wing and this performance as Skeeter’s cancer-stricken mother gave me goosebumps at certain moments, (especially that scene on the couch towards the end). Throw in the brilliant duo of Sissy Spacek (who hasn’t lost her comedic chops) and Cicely Tyson (who without saying much at all), provided the inspiration that drove Stone’s tenacious character. Mary Steenburgen’s presence is always welcome and she does a great job with her small but key role here.
Yes I really enjoyed it. Yes this review is gushing. I honestly can’t help it.
I love it when a movie comes out of nowhere and moves me. It doesn’t concern me that this type of tale has been told many times before in one form or another. I really don’t care whether folks think that the movie might have not delved into racism more than it did. It did fine in that area and in fact that is one of the reasons why I enjoyed it.
Go see it. It will move you too. And that’s what movies are supposed to do.
The Help has literally left me spent. After watching this film, I was a red-eyed, snotty mess.
Yet I couldn’t be happier.
I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie where I feel like it changed me, and The Help has changed me.
The film, based on the 2009 novel by Kathryn Socket, delves into the lives of women on both sides of the racial fence in early 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi.
The Help has done an amazing job translating a microcosm of pre-Civil Rights America into a heartfelt yet hopeful film.
Given that this film is adapted and directed by relative rookie filmmaker Tate Taylor, this film is even more extraordinary.
Taylor has done a smart thing by simply hiring the best actors and letting them do their job. The Help feels very natural and organic as a film and will likely be nominated for and win a truckload of Oscars come next February. It is also going to be quite the star vehicle for Emma Stone (Easy A, Zombieland).
Stone is absolutely brilliant as “Skeeter” Phelan, the oddball in a group of highbrow hoity-toity Southern Belles. Her character is the only woman in her social circle with a college education who’s also recently employed and not married. Her character is deeply misunderstood by her friends and family, with not even her own mother understanding how Skeeter is okay with the path she’s chosen.
Stone has taken what could have been a one-dimensional, and potentially clichéd, character and breathed beautiful life into her. The young actress clearly has a very long career in front of her.
The film’s other standout is the sly and conniving character of Hilly Holbrook, played by Bryce Dallas Howard (Spider-Man 3, The Village). She’s been a personal favourite of mine since watching her in M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water.
Howard, whom gives off an other-worldliness to her characters, wasn’t easy to get used to at first in a villainous role. It’s a testament to Howard’s acting abilities that she sinks right into this character.
Aibileen Clark, played by Davis, is a broken woman whose only joy is derived from taking care of the daughter of the family she works for. Davis nails the constant downcast gaze, the fear, and the body language of someone who’s carrying around the weight of the world.
Her best friend and lifeline, Minny Jackson (played by Spencer), is a spunky and sassy woman who doesn’t take “nothin from nobody.” Spencer, like Stone, takes a character that could have been the stock Noble Black Person and made her into a real woman who seems very strong on the outside, but also has her own burdens in life.
I can’t speak of the women in this movie without mentioning the small roles held by Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life, the upcoming film The Debt), Allison Janney and Sissy Spacek. Chastain – the film’s scene stealer – is stellar in this film, as well as Spacek, who displays remarkable comedic timing.
The Help is definitely my favourite movie of the year so far. It’s not a “summer blockbuster”, but it still took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s a must-see that explores the resilience of the human spirit and our capacity, even in the face of struggles, for unconditional love.
As we wind down the summer blockbuster season and wait for the Fall flock of films to be unleashed upon us, there is always a gap that takes place in the month of August. Usually the movies that open in the latter part of the summer are not exactly the best of films as studios are worried about moviegoers suffering film fatigue. They want to make sure that we eager for the so-called bigger films that launch after Labour Day.
This August this is the farthest from the truth. We have some pretty fantastic films that are being released and that is going to make watching movies finally fun the second half of the summer leading into TIFF.
To say that this is an important film is not understating it all. The trailer promises us a well-told, well-acted movie that will tackle a subject that should not be forgotten in a manner that will allow as many people as possible to see it.
Xavierpop is very proud to be involved in this screening and hope that you can make it.
Head over to the contest page to find out how to win passes.