Set in and around Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s, at the start of the civil rights movement, The Help offers up a powerful statement of selflessness, tenacity, and strength among southern black women who work in the homes of southern white women. They cook, clean, take care of the little white babies, and just about everything else around the house. I couldn’t help but initially wonder if this was going to be a black version of Steel Magnolias. It was not!
The stellar cast of Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, and Viola Davis, along with smaller but great performances from Cicely Tyson, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, and True Blood’s Nelsan Ellis all add to the excellent writing of Tate Taylor (screenplay) and Kathryn Stockett (novel).
While the movie definitely shows the ugliness of the day, it instead focuses on the optimism of those who are considered the help.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune said it best, “But as filled with contradictions as it is — genteel but prejudiced, mannered but mean, home to the most civilized brand of cruelty you ever did see — it’s built on tradition.”
It is human story that will make you laugh out loud and break your heart. But it’s a story that is brought from a different perspective. It touches on domestic violence, racism (“There are real racists in this town!”), social status, the failed desires to start a family, and ‘an imaginative sympathy that gets beneath the skin of its characters and into their hearts,’ to paraphrase the Philadelphia Inquirer.
I definitely recommend going to see this film. I will undoubtedly see nominations for the cast of this film, as well as the director. And I am sure a Best Picture nod will be in there as well.
I’m gonna go out and buy the book. You need to go see the movie, or else I will call you “Two Slice Hilly!”