Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Help (Film Review)

“The Help” is our generation’s “The Color Purple” but much, much lighter in terms of the subject matter. This film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel of the same name tells a tale of African-American housekeepers who work in white households in Jackson, Mississippi and a young white woman (The delightful Emma Stone as the smart and unconventional Skeeter Phelan, reminiscent of her “Easy A” character in a way) documents the maids’ stories and compiles them into a book called “The Help”.

Racial dramas are like those Nazi films, they keep coming out and it seems we just can’t get enough of them. Perhaps there are just so many stories to be told about these two ugly pieces of human history. 

Although it is not an easy feat to inject light-hearted comedy moments into a reality-based serious biracial drama, the director, Tate Taylor (A childhood friend of the novel’s author Kathryn Stockett , both Mississippians from Jackson) manages to keep a steady balance between tears and laughs. There is never a dull moment despite its lengthy 146-minute run.

The movie’s star-studded female cast (Allison Janney, Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard and the marvelous Sissy Spacek) alone gives enough reason to see this movie.  As expected, the cast delivers one of the most notable ensemble performances in recent cinema history.  All characters are given enough screen time to shine and together, they create a stunning chemistry between these charismatic characters and their relationships, making the story even more believable if not relatable. One of the film’s leading actresses, the hilarious Ocatavia Spencer  as Minnie Jackson a.k.a  the take-no-nonsense black mama (Minnie don’t burn no chicken!) and Viola Davis, pitch perfect as usual, as Aibileen Clark, an experienced maid in raising white children, will soon hear the names read out at the nominations list of various awards.

Social injustice, a piece of civil rights history, long-suffering maids in the civil rights era, American family values in the 60s and a bunch of women in bouffant hair, “The Help” is by far one of the very few great movies I have seen this year. Two thumps-up from me.

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