“The Help”: Lots of Future Hardware to Polish
Next spring we’ll be seeing a lot of cleaning being done – cleaning up on Academy Awards. The hit movie, “The Help,” is sure to bring home plenty of statues. It’s an excellent movie from practically every standpoint.
Set in the tumultuous civil rights era of 1960s Jackson, Mississippi, the story centers around the efforts of aspiring reporter and writer Skeeter Phelan to expose the discrimination that abounds in her hometown, specifically the black maids who cook for, clean up after, and raise the children of their white employers. Skeeter convinces the maids that their story needs to be told, and she has a New York publisher curious enough about the situation that a book could be in the making. Terribly reluctant, given that many of their situations haven’t changed all that much in the last 100 or more years, the maids ponder Skeeter’s offer while suffering day after day of thoughtlessness and worse from their sources of income.
Based on the best-selling first novel by Kathyrn Stockett, the screenplay surprisingly surpasses Stockett’s worthy enterprise. Tate Taylor gets scriptwriting credit and directs the film as well. And in so doing, he somehow manages to strengthen an already good story.
Of course, a cast of excellent actresses helps propel the movie into not only a zany intrigue, but a heart-rendering story of a part of our nation’s woeful days of civil rights violations. Among the most outstanding performances is Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, who will surely be nominated for numerous acting awards around the globe. Emma Stone as Skeeter Phelan gives a memorable performance, and Octavia Spencer is another sure-fire nominee for her role as Minnie. Allison Janey plays Skeeter’s cancer-stricken mom. But perhaps most striking of all is Jessica Chastain as trailer-trash Celia Foote. From the pages of the book, she jumps onto the screen as close to Stockett’s original Celia as any writer could hope for. Bryce Dallas Howard is the despicable Hilly Holbrook, another character from the book that is near perfect on film.
See “The Help” while it’s on the big screen. It’s a big movie with a big impact.