The Help - a review of the film

It's the women and their stories that shine in The Help!  

4 out of 5 stars
In theaters now.

The hardest thing for me to do is to write a review of a film based on a book that I love.  So I won't. I'm stepping away from the book as much as I can and  will speak about the movie. I won't go on and on about the two or three plot pieces that were completely ignored, that would have helped a couple of the crucial scenes actually make sense and would have packed a bigger whallop for the audience. But never mind.

The story opens in 1963 Jackson, Mississippi, where the racial unrest is boiling just somewhere below the surface of the city and through out the country. The murder of Medgar Evers is what sets the movement in motion. The treatment of the maids by their white employers is shocking at best. And sadly director / screenwriter Tate Taylor, in his first film for a major studio is just flat out of his league.

The audience was wild about the movie at the screening I was invited to attend. I enjoyed the film, but on retrospect I have to fault director/screen writer (and friend of the author, Kathryn Stockett) Tate Taylor.  Not all white women in the south were vapid, racist, mean and bad mothers. I felt that Mr. Taylor, in his quest to tell a moving and important story, turned most all of the women in the movie into stereo-typical, over the top caricatures.  And on the flip side of that coin, most all of "the help" were treated almost the same way, in reverse, being all wise, all caring and all too funny. 

The stand out performances in spite of Mr. Taylor are Viola Davis in the role that should be the heart of the film, Aibileen Clark with her constant struggle to educate the babies she looks after to have self confidence and to be colorblind in the world, Sissy Spacek as old Missus Walters, the villian's aging and forgetful mother who is spot on about the world and her daughter Hillie,  and then there's the stellar Octavia Spencer as the abused and mouthy Minnie Jackson.  These people are the reason to see the film.

Our heroine, Skeeter, a struggling journalist, played way too idealistically under Taylor's direction by Emma Stone, who with a degree from Ole Miss, when applying for a job at the Jackson Journal, is offered the Miss Myrna column about house cleaning tips. Which she takes, and then turns to Aibileen, for the answers. Thus the beginning of the story telling. Skeeter being urged  by a NY editor to write about what she cares about. 

Cutting to the chase, the story that is the base of this film, to me, is about the fact that in 1963 ALL WOMEN were trapped. Some by the color, some by being married in a time and place that made wives subordinate to their husbands, but all were trapped because they were women.  And it's the help that comes from the women and that's offered to each other that unites them all reach  across the color line and find strength in themselves.

Despite my concerns, it's an enjoyable movie.  A very enjoyable movie. Do go, take your mammas and your daughters. The young women of today NEED to see what the world was like for women a short forty years ago.

4 out of 5 stars!

Opens: August 10 (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Production companies: Touchstone Pictures and DreamWorks in association with Participant present a Reliance Big Entertainment/Imagenation Abu DabiFZ/1492 Pictures production
Cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Allison Janney, Jessica Chastain, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek, Mike Vogal, Chris Lowell, Cicely Tyson, Aunjanue Ellis
Director/screenwriter: Tate Taylor
Based on the novel by: Kathryn Stockett
Producers: Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Brunson Green
Executive producers: Jennifer Blum, Mohamed Khalaf  Al-Mazrouel, Nate Berkus, L. Dean Jones Jr., John Norris, Mark Radcliffe, Jeff Skoll, Tate Taylor
Director of photography: Stephen Goldblatt
Production designer: Mark Ricker
Music: Thomas Newman
Costume designer: Sharen Davis
Editor: Hughes Winborne
PG-13 rating, 146 minutes

I was invited to attend a  press screening of the movie by Disney/Dreamworks and that in no affected my opinion. 

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