Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Top Five Reasons to See "The Help"

The Jackson Five

“The Help” combines strong characters with warmth and hard edges and a story that makes you think. It is a special kind of a movie that is satisfying without needing to tie every loose end or close with a fairy-tale ending.  “The Help” is a wunderkind.  Below are the top five reasons why this film, based in Jackson, Mississippi, is a must-see.

 5. Bryce Dallas Howard (who happens to be Ron Howard’s daughter) plays the “villain” of the film, Hilly Holbrook.  Her portrayal of an uptight, unabashedly racist housewife of the 60s is one of her best roles to date.  Her antics drive everyone around her mad, but karma comes around to bite her in a most disgusting way.  Watch and you won’t be disappointed!

4. The wardrobe of the housewives in “The Help” is absolutely delightful, except for that of Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, Emma Stone’s character.  She is unlike her peers, who only focus on playing the part of the superficially perfect housewife.  Skeeter wants to be a serious journalist.   She could care less about acting like a floozy to draw in a suitable husband.  Therefore, her wardrobe is not eye-catching or well-tailored.  This is a mystery to me, since most of the other characters in the film, like Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain (a fresh face, who acts wonderfully) playing Celia Foote, all sport the most beautifully fitted clothes and shoes.  Hilly wears cerulean blue high-waisted slacks with tiny oxford flats in one scene, a simple, elegant combination.  Celia, as the “white trash” of the era, wears what today is the norm: body-hugging skirts, a nipped in waist defined by a wide belt, and candy-colored, sky-high heels.

3. Emma Stone has proved her quirkiness and on-target comedic skills in past exploits like “Superbad,” “Easy A” and “Crazy Stupid Love.”  She takes the center stage in “The Help,” along with Viola Clark and Octavia Spencer.  She absolutely shines, in a most understated way that only Stone can.  There is something most intriguing about many of her expressions.  They often border on being funny.  Curiously, it doesn’t take away from her role, but rather adds a sort of authenticity to her character.

She has one scene in “The Help” that isn’t funny at all though.  I was floored, in fact, at the depth of sadness she portrays after hearing some news from her on-screen mother, played by Allison Janney.  What really got me was a tiny detail: her chin wobbles.  As far as I know, chin wobbling is no easy feat.  Stone must have reached deeply into her character, or perhaps her own life, to produce such a perfect display of sorrow.

2. Aibileen Clark, played by Viola Davis, is the hero of “The Help.”  While Skeeter is a hero for writing the story of the women who live behind the scenes, Aibileen is the first to take the terrifying leap, to defy the law, to tell her story.  She convinces her best friend Minny Jackson, played by Spencer, to join her.  Soon the tales come pouring out from women all over Jackson.  Davis holds the spotlight in her scenes.  She is a beautiful woman, but it is downplayed and subdued in her role as Aibileen.  Her character is easily the heart and soul of the film.  Aibileen may appear to lead a simple, solitary life, but she is not oblivious to the conversations of the white women she works for.  They speak about her like she is invisible.  She has no way out, no serious realization that things can change, until Skeeter asks to interview her. 

If Aibileen is the heart and soul, then Minny is easily the spirit of the film.  She takes some especially hard breaks, but her keen observations of the family she helps and her sense of humor will keep you in stitches.  She is Aibileen’s partner in crime, the one that keeps her going and makes sure she gets the credit she deserves within their community.  Spencer plays Minny with great skill.  She can be incredibly funny in one scene and broken down in another, both equally believable.

1. The relationship between Aibileen and the child that she cares for, Mae Mobley, is absolutely heartwarming.  Mae is the fourteenth child she has brought up.  Aibileen plays mother for each of these children, loving them as her own, doing all of the hard work behind the scenes, while their mothers flit around worrying about dresses and entertaining company.  

Aibileen impresses upon Mae one of the sweetest and most touching sentiments.  She tells Mae that she is kind, she is smart, and she is important.   Mae, with her blonde curls and chubby cheeks, recites it back to her with aplomb, “I am kind, I am smart and I am important.” It is so ironic and moving that a woman who struggles with invisibility and is rarely appreciated at her job, can still pass on such a wonderful notion to a child.  Mae is not necessarily made to feel smart, kind or important by her own mother, but more of a burden.  It is inspiring that Aibileen is able to hold onto these values herself, despite the oppression she deals with every day.


  1. These reasons are good enough for me. I actually WAS on the fence about it, but now I really wanna see it! I remember my mom talking about the book and usually if something is a book I prefer to read it than see the movie, but I think the movie is worth seeing.

  2. I thought they did an amazing job of making the novel - which I loved - into a film. You know who I really loved though? Hilly's mother. I thought she was absolutely hilarious!

  3. @Maggie: I'm glad you're going to see it now!

    @Tara: I agree! Sissy Spacek is such a classic actress. She's another reason to see the film!