‘The Help’ contains great performances
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 00:01
In 1961, the American South finds itself with blacks and whites coexisting while casually enduring day-to-day spectacles filled with hatred, racism and controversial issues that swarm the inner society. “The Help,” directed by Tate Taylor and starring Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Emma Stone, is an emotionally derived story, bringing to life what really happened inside of the American Southern home. An adaption of Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel, the movie introduces Aibileen Clark (Davis) who has raised 17 white children while under the employ of their mothers. Like many of the other black women in her community, she is not only a nanny, but, in many ways, a surrogate mother. Davis, a maid determined to keep her job and still maintain a life of contentment, tells her young white child to remember what became one of the famous quotes of the movie, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
Set in Jackson, Mississippi, Aibileen’s story is not the only one that is shown here. Just returning from college, Skeeter Phelan (Stone), who has outgrown the popular-girl clique in town and has come back to work as a columnist. When she applies for a position with the paper, she is given a column about cleaning advice. Not knowing what to write about, she recruits Aibileen for help and soon devises a plan to interview maids and write a book on the Southern domestic life from their point of view. The film is also about their comrades, and eventually almost every maid in Jackson turns up to help Skeeter, including Minny (Spencer), a saucy and loud-mouthed housekeeper and cook who’s as feisty and contemptuous as Aibileen is proper.
The main conflict first becomes apparent with Hilly creates a campaign to force black women to use an outside bathroom while at their employer’s home, the equivalent of Rosa Parks’ “back of the bus” incident. However, it soon escalates with the book that Skeeter planned all along. The book, dangerous to write because of her sources, causes a stir in Jackson, which sparks the movie into a highlighted performance amongst actors.
With Howard’s flawless performance on what had to be changed and Stone holding the movie together as she unravels the secret to why the family maid of 29 years was mysteriously let go, the movie makes and breaks your heart. Full of saucy humor and hilarious vengeful incidents, “The Help” is a stirring salute to subjugated women who hold their heads high in times of need.