Friday, August 26, 2011

See It or Skip It: The Help

    I loved reading the critically acclaimed bestselling novel earlier this year. As a skeptical movie buff, I know there are numerous adaptations of books to movies that have been TERRIBLE. For once, I was glad to see I wasn’t going to be disappointed.

    The Help is set in 1960s Mississippi on the brink of the Civil Rights Movement. The story is focused on three women: Aibileen, Minny, and Skeetor. As a recent college graduate, Skeetor wants to write a book on the real life story of African American maids. A book about how these maids feel, how they are treated, and how it affects everyday life in Jackson, Mississippi. Of course, none of the women are interested in helping a white woman who is friends with most of their bosses.

    Viola Davis is the heart and soul of this film as Aibileen, a maid with a quiet yet strong willed demeanor. I was impressed with Viola in her supporting Oscar nominated performance in Doubt but this was something else. I can actually say she is what makes this a great film. There’s a scene where she opens up and describes a horrible incident from her past. Ms. Davis does this with such pose, elegance, and a delicate patience. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre!

    Octavia Spencer was born to play Minny, the sassy cook with an infectious personality. Octavia effortlessly delivers comedic lines like a pro. Yet, she also brings force to the screen. The epic scene with Minny and Hilly is one that will be remember for years to come. It’s interesting to know she is friends with the author and was inspiration for the character. So yes, she was born to play her!

    Emma Stone is generally known as comedienne but I am happy to say – the girl can act. Skeetor is an important character; so, readers were skeptic in the beginning. However, let it be known that Emma Stone is a great fit. A pivotal scene with her and her mother’s character was the first time I’ve ever seen her show her acting abilities. It was a very poignant moment in her career.

    I hated to love and loved to hate Bryce Dallas Howard as the movie’s villainess, Hilly Holbrook. Howard excels with her evil yet charmingly perilous words. Her delivery of “There are some real racists out there!” was hysterical. You hate this character but you can’t help but pity her ignorance. Bryce Dallas Howard created a memorable role and is finally a real actress. We can all ignore her terrible Twilight: Eclipse scene (which granted isn't her fault).

    Jessica Chastain was sweet as apple pie as the outcast Celia Foote whose genuine heart melts the tough Minny. She is done up as a Marilyn Monroe doppelganger. Unfortunately, none of the housewives are willing to overlook her bombshell looks and invite her in their inner circle. This could have EASILY become a campy performance but the physical and emotional struggle for Celia Foote is proof that Jessica Chastain is on her way to becoming the next Cate Blanchet.

    Veteran actresses Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, Allison Janney also add a splash of AH-MAZING to this film. Sissy Spacek is delightful as Hilly’s mother, Mrs. Walters. She definitely brings some laughs to the screen. I only wish there was more of her. Cicely Tyson plays the maid (and second mother) that raised Skeetor, Constantine. Cicely Tyson’s power to convey a spirited yet fragile woman reminded me of her in the 1970s classic Sounder. She’s the grandmother we all wished for. Allison Janney played by wonderfully funny and politically incorrect mother to Skeetor. Janney has some real intimate scenes with Emma Stone's character. Their mother/daughter scenes are dear to my heart.

    There are several scenes where I gasped. A powerhouse of emotion flooded me including the shocking ordeal with Hilly’s maid, Yule May; as well as, the heartbreaking scene with Constantine and Skeetor’s mom. It’s despicable to think there really was a “separate but equal” in our government. This movie seriously brought horrible sobbing tears to my face but I loved every minute.

    The Help is a emotional film lead by a stellar cast. When I say stellar – I mean remarkable. This film was a very accurate adaption of the book which is not always the case in Hollywood (Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix, cough - cough). Director Tate Taylor and cast perfectly created the same vision I had of the lives of these characters but made it even greater than what I had imagined.


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