Review: The Help

Directed By: Tate Taylor

Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavian Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney

Rating:   Running Time: 146 mins 

Earlier this year, we here at the Monday Movie Show posted the trailer for this movie. Released in The US in August, it was the movie that managed to topple Rise of the Planet of the Apes from the top of the US box office after several weeks. We also wondered wether come Oscar time, it may be up for Oscar nominations to make it this year’s The Blind Side.

Based on the book by Katherine Stockett, and set in 1960’s Mississippi during the time of the civil right’s issues, the story follows Eugenia Phelan (Emma Stone), a graduate from university who wants to be a writer, Abileen Clark (Viola Davis), and Minny Johnson (Octavia Spencer), two coloured women who are employed by families, including that of Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) as maids. After Euginia returns home, she’s distraught to find that Constantine, the coloured maid who practically raised her as a child, has quit and moved away with her family.

Though not entirely believing what her parents have told her about Constantine’s leaving, Euginia lets the matter go, and takes a job at the local paper writing the cleaning agony aunt’s column. Inexperienced in matters to do with cleaning, she asks one of her friends about speaking to their maid for tips on answering the letters, and speaks with Abileen. After hearing from Hilly Holbrook about a proposed law preventing coloured maids from using the bathrooms in white people’s houses, and seeing how Abileen is treated one day by the family that employs her, Euginia decides she wants to write about things from the help’s point of view. After Abileen agrees to tell her stories about her time working as a maid, Euginia’s publisher tells her she needs more maids to talk, and eventually, they convince Hilly’s maid Minny to also talk with them about her experiences.

It’s easy to see why this movie did so well at the U.S. box office, it’s one of those rare movies that will appeal to just about everyone, and will almost certainly receive positive word of mouth. It successfully covers the touchy subjects of racism and slavery whilst also including positive scenes of the friendships between these women at a time when there were huge barriers between race and class.

It should be nominated in several award categories, and deservingly so. I expect it to be nominated for several including performance, writing and directing categories, not to mention best movie (though as mentioned previously, for me that slot has already gone to Drive). It also has a largely female cast with those already mentioned being supported by actresses including Jessica Chastain and Alison Janney, all of which give incredible performances that, like the movie, walk the fine line between gut wrenchingly emotional and laugh out loud comedy.

The movie has a few comedy elements (including one particular story element revolving around baked confectionary) that some may feel is pandering a little to the gross out audience, but without it descending to the likes of The Hangover or some Judd Apatow movie. It’s one failing is that at almost two and a half hours, it is too long, and would have benefitted from being about 25 minutes shorter.

Guys are often dragged along to the movies by their other halves to see the likes of Sex & The City, or The Devil Wear’s Prada and will no doubt be forced to endure the two halves of the upcoming Twilight: Breaking Dawn later this year, but if they’re asked to go along for this movie, they may find they’re not as bored as they expect, and may even enjoy it.

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Posted on November 2, 2011, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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