Back in August I went with my mom to see The Help. It has become a little tradition to see a movie every time she comes and visits and it seems like the movies we end up seeing are nominated for Best Picture. This one keeps the streak alive.
Based on the book of the same name, The Help is about black maids in the South during the 1950s. When Skeeter (Emma Stone) comes home from college and gets a job at the local newspaper, she gets assigned to the cleaning column. Not knowing much about cleaning, she starts asking Aibileen (Viola Davis), the maid at her friend's house, for tips.
As Skeeter starts talking to Aibileen she begins to see things differently and realizes how badly the help is being treated. As the racial tensions increase and blacks are more and more segregated, Skeeter decides to write a book from the perspective of the help. She asks Aibileen to share some of her stories for the book. At first reluctant, Aibileen realizes that the book could make more people aware of the situation in the South when it is published.
With the help of her friend Minny (Octavia Spencer) they begin to compile stories from their experiences. Everything from raising white kids to being forced to use separate bathrooms gets told. After the book is published they are forced to deal with the fall out. Even though it was published anonymously, it is clear to most people who wrote it. Their biggest nemesis and Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) who wants to get revenge on them for a particular story that she knows is about her.
The strength of this film is in the acting, as evidenced by the big wins it had at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Viola Davis won for Best Actress, Octavia Spencer won for Best Supporting Actress and the movie itself won for Best Ensemble. Emma Stone and Bryce Dallas Howard were also amazing. The story itself seems fresh, even if the theme is familiar. The movie balances the humor with seriousness very well. It is a balancing act that is often difficult to do.
There has been some controversy surrounding the movie. Any time a white person writes about the lives of black people, it is going to create some controversy. I think the fact that it is creating a dialogue about race relations is a good thing. Both the writer of the novel, Kathryn Stockett, and the writer and director of the movie, Tate Taylor, grew up in the South and saw some of these things first hand, so I believe there is some sort of authenticity to the movie.
I have been told that this is a "white guilt movie," I guess meaning that it is made to make white people feel bad about what happened. I don't think that is the point of the movie. I think it shows a time in American history that we should not forget. Maybe it is not the most accurate portrayal, but I think it serves its purpose of making people think. While the controversy kept people talking it will also keep it from winning Best Picture.
Overall I think the movie was very well done. I think it is a difficult subject that many people would just like to forget but the movie handles it with a balance of humor that makes the movie enjoyable.
Besides Best Picture it is also nominated for Best Actress-Viola Davis, Best Supporting Actress-Octavia Spencer and Best Supporting Actress-Jessica Chastain. Look for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to get the wins.