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Film Studies 101
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Emma Stone
Viola Davis
Bryce Dallas Howard
Jessica Chastain.
Directors
Tate Taylor.
Screenwriters
Tate Taylor.
Running Time
146 minutes

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The Help
Do the civil rights thing...


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Plot
Mississippi, the 1960s. Would-be journalist Skeeter (Stone) decides to write a book about “The Help”, the black maids who work for the white families in the area. Interviewing local maid Aibileen (Davis) in secret, Skeeter reveals what really goes on between these women and their employers.


Review
The Help
Already a hit at the US box office, this civil rights-era drama, based on the bestseller by Kathryn Stockett, knows exactly which buttons to push and when. It’s a stirring story of righteous, downtrodden women rising up against years of inequality and poor treatment: cruelty at worst and condescension at best. There’s a sparky heroine, Skeeter (Emma Stone), who does what we hope we’d have done in the circumstances: champion the underdog and see through the era’s racial prejudice with objective eyes.

It is troubling, as some American critics have pointed out, that the maids only gain the courage to stand up to their employers thanks to a white woman. While Stone gives her sharp-eyed and quick-tongued character every ounce of relatability she can, you can’t help but wince occasionally at the blind gratitude heaped upon her by working-class black women who appear to see her as their lone saviour.

In almost every other respect (save perhaps the slightly overlong running time), The Help is a very good film. Viola Davis is heartbreaking as Aibileen, the warm and wise woman who’s brought up 17 children who may love her more than they do their own mothers. And yet she must say her goodbyes to these children as if they’re strangers. Try holding back the tears in those scenes. Meanwhile, the wonderful Allison Janney brings a refreshingly nuanced performance as Skeeter’s mother, one of the few characters whose moral compass is wavering rather than firmly black or white. Definitely 100 per cent baddie is Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard), the monstrous socialite who campaigns for separate toilets for staff and ostracises bimboish newcomer Celia (a blonde Jessica Chastain, playing enjoyably against type, if she already has such a thing).

Also bringing humour to the table is Octavia Spencer as Minny, a bolshy maid prone to temper tantrums and pranks: just watch the sparks between her and Hilly fly. The sunshine pours from the screen, too: this looks terrific and boasts beautiful period detail in the costumes and set design.

All in all, it’s an exceptionally well-made drama with a quality cast, top performances, a moving story, fizzy dialogue and a keen eye for small-town social mores. It may be a tad patronising occasionally, but like its heroine Skeeter, it’s well-meaning and hugely likable despite its flaws.


Verdict
A simplistic portrayal of historic race relations boosted by terrific performances from some of the best actresses working in Hollywood today. Sure, it’s corny, but it mostly works.


Reviewed by Anna Smith

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Help
Empire Star Rating

Corny, simplistic, over emotional for emotions sake but ultimately, if you view this picture as a whole, I feel it deserves more than its been given. If you are to pick at scenes you'd see how clunky in places it is and how cliched it can be in terms of the history. But overall, the film itself leaves you warm and proud of individuals facing such adversities. The performances are utterly incredibly and ultimately drive the film - but when a film is driven by such a good cast it doesn't matter. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danfacey711 at 04:49, 26 April 2013 | Report This Post


Emotional, Bloated.......Too Sweet

Race relations are always a tricksy subject when tackling them onscreen. To attempt to make a drama-comedy about race relations is, I would venture, rather difficult. However, The Help rises to the task quite admirably, mixing a fairly amusing mix of comedy with soppy melodrama. I know what this might sound a little uncomplimentary, but it works in the film's favour- as a result the film is impossible to dislike. From it's wonderful performances to it's always-above average script, The Help is a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 22:44, 29 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Help

But she's not really a saviour, she can't instantly make their lives better or get them out of prison or save their jobs. She's just trying to tell a story - would it have been possible in those times for a black journalist to have the connections Skeeter did to Mary Steenburgen's character for example to get such a book published? And like I said there were plenty of white people who backed the civil rights movement including journalists - why is it in bad taste to have a white journalist att... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 23:15, 02 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Help

Because it was, for me, unabashedly white saviour and lacked any kind of self-awareness about it. That was exacerbated by the dramas for the 2 main black characters being unconvincingly played out and the best opportunities being given elsewhere - Howard was much improved I thought, e.g. ... More

Posted by elab49 at 23:03, 02 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Help

I agree Chastain was better than Spencer as well t sure why you feel the movie left a bad taste in your mouth though? ... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 22:55, 02 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Help

Although my post was more about the 3 star thing, I think this is different to an acknowledgement that all races took part in the civil rights movement. The whole thing left a bit of a bad taste for me. 'd have rather Davis won the Oscar than who did - but she was still joint 3rd of the offerings in the year for me. In not a great choice of supporting nods I'd have given it to Chastain over Spencer (although that would have rather hammered home one of the problems with the film) but McTeer, IMO... More

Posted by elab49 at 21:17, 02 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Help

L: elab49 'Simplistic' 'corny' 'flawed' 'mostly works' - choose a few different words you get a different view on 3 stars. Add the whole distasteful white saviour aspect and it's understandable some knock it down further. As for the Oscar? Octavia Spencer gave the exact same sassy routine in The Big Bang Theory. Undeserved award IMO. keeter wasn't really that much of a saviour though she was just exposing an injustice. The final scene sees the main character forced out of her ... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 20:49, 02 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Help

'Simplistic' 'corny' 'flawed' 'mostly works' - choose a few different words you get a different view on 3 stars. Add the whole distasteful white saviour aspect and it's understandable some knock it down further. As for the Oscar? Octavia Spencer gave the exact same sassy routine in The Big Bang Theory. Undeserved award IMO. ... More

Posted by elab49 at 20:39, 02 September 2012 | Report This Post


The Help

L: X Heart Tolle I'm a little confused how can a film that Anna Smith describes as.....and I quote "an exceptionally well-made drama with a quality cast, top performances, a moving story, and fizzy dialogue ".....can only garner 3 stars????? have to agree with this, The Help is four stars for me. It's just so well acted and moving you have to award it at least 4/5. The Oscar wins don't suprise as it's a classic awards-friendly movie but don't let that put you off it's actually real... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 20:25, 02 September 2012 | Report This Post


The Help

Great acting and laughs. Too long, Derivative. Focuses too much on Skeeter instead of the maids. Could have used some editing. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:45, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


Watched yesterday: tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1454029/]The Helpississippi, 1960`s. The white wannabe-journalis Skeeter (Emma Stone) can`t longer sit back and do nothing about how the black maids are being mis-/abused by their bosses. She asks one of the maids to tell her story for a book she`s writing about the lives and wrongdoings that they suffer from. The fact that Kathryn Stockett`s novel on wich the film is based became a bestseller in America after being praised by Oprah Winfrey tell... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 23:12, 03 January 2012 | Report This Post


Conflicted

I really enjoyed this movie, but after thinking about things a little more when the movie was done, I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it. It did seem to trivialize many aspects of African American life at the time. That said, it's a good watch but you may want to take it with a grain of salt as well. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Turd Ferguson at 17:46, 03 January 2012 | Report This Post


Great but not as great as you think it is.

Great but not as great as you think it should be? Still, I love this movie. OUSTANDING performances and lot of good humour from Octavia Spencer. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ARmy2510 at 23:38, 29 December 2011 | Report This Post


Good movie

Review not quite accurate. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bereski at 21:09, 29 November 2011 | Report This Post


**Essential Viewing**

One of best movie of 2011. And all Performances in this Movie are Outstanding . ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by soulfood at 22:09, 18 November 2011 | Report This Post


RE: I'm confused?!?!?

A heart-warming film with a good degree of humour in it. Well worth watching ... More

Posted by xxdelta at 11:24, 28 October 2011 | Report This Post


I'm confused?!?!?

I'm a little confused how can a film that Anna Smith describes as.....and I quote "an exceptionally well-made drama with a quality cast, top performances, a moving story, and fizzy dialogue ".....can only garner 3 stars????? Yes, IT IS questionable that the maids only get the courage to stand up because of Emma Stones Character; but this was Mississippi in the 1960's! Not New York or Washington DC. It's obvious that k person could have also have been the catalyst for this change in the... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by X Heart Tolle at 19:18, 27 October 2011 | Report This Post



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