Is there anyone who has not heard of this movie in the recent days and weeks leading up to its release? Annually when my dad takes his once a year (twice at the most) work-related trip, my mom and I always enjoy doing something fun – just the two of us. This year in addition to some shopping we went and saw this highly-acclaimed movie, and were most definitely not disappointed by the experience. Probably the majority of you, who may have wanted to see this, already have, but nevertheless, I thought I’d write up a review regarding my thoughts on the movie and the conclusions I came too.
The tight-knit group of neighbors in Jackson Mississippi has codes and unspoken rules by which they live. If those are broken, the women who uphold them aren’t afraid of using cruel tactics in order to “correct” their fellow society woman… and most especially the women who run their households, raise their children and are then ill-treated for doing their jobs: these women are their maids. Wealthy and with an attitude that she knows everything there is to know and is right all the time, Hilly Holbrock (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the biggest offender of such behavior. She is so prejudiced she finds it offensive that her fellow neighbor and committee member Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O’ Rielly) won’t install separate bathroom facilities for her maid Aibileen (Viola Davis) – why it is just scandalous and Hilly refuses to use Elizabeth’s facilities lest Aibileen have contaminated them. The quiet Aibileen has had her share of hurts – including the loss of her only son but through it all she has triumphed. Then there is the rebel of the bunch Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone).
In the early 1960’s women married and started having babies and that was that. But Skeeter isn’t like the others. As a girl she was ridiculed for being ugly but now as a grown woman with a college education, she is determined to make her mark in the world by becoming a world-famous author. Skeeter also takes the time to acknowledge the help – in a sense even to befriend them. Meanwhile, recently moved to Jackson is Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) who causes quite the stir in the otherwise prim and proper circles. She is thought to be lower-class by Hilly and her peers so she is continuously snubbed by them even though she married one of Jackson’s own wealthy sons. After a series of mishaps, Hilly’s opinionated maid Minny (Octavia Spencer) is fired and winds up being the only woman willing to be hired by Miss Celia… and it is in part these events that gets Skeeter to thinking about these women – about their treatment by employers: about their stories, their feelings.
I am just going to delve right in and share my initial reaction to this without making you guess my eventual opinion… Oh. My. Gosh! This was an awesome, inspiring movie. Not so much the same kind of ‘awesome’ that the latest espionage thriller might be considered or ‘inspiring’ like Amazing Grace but, trust me: it is good. At first, I knew it’d be something I’d rent but then my mom showed interest so I had the idea that it might make for a fun girls’ day out, then my mom kind of lost interest because of various different remarks, eventually, we settled on seeing it anyway – and we were both glad for it. Something about the movie really tugs at your heartstrings. The cast is nearly all female – spanning from various different walks in life and age so that probably plays a vital part in it being so relatable to such a wide female audience.
It might seem strange to us now to think that black women would be persecuted for even speaking candidly with a white counterpart but that was true during these times where rioting was a popular news story and President Kennedy’s assassination was a source of mourning for everyone. The second thing that amazes me is how parents treated their children. It was like they were dirt beneath their feet and the only reason for having children was because it was the thing to do rather than because a married couple wanted children. I only managed to get a mere few pages read of the novel before seeing the movie but just in those few, I can say that the movie does seem to do the book justice. I immediately picked up on similar conversation in the first ten minutes of the movie after only flipping through the book and reading those couple of pages. I look forward to finishing the best-selling book by Kathryn Stockett and seeing the movie again – a DVD that will most likely be among my own collection.
For those of us that enjoy strong protagonists, this movie will cater to your likes. Its script brings us multiple courageous strong-willed characters and for that alone I love the film. There are countless memorable scenes which often bring you to tears. And I am not an emotional viewer in the sense that I cry a lot during something but I did begin to lose it (before catching myself!) when Aibileen was forced to say good-bye to one person who relied on her – who loved her near the end. In addition to that scene I loved the interaction between Celia, her husband and Minny – there was one family who treated their “help” with respect and dignity and it was priceless. The cast is also phenomenal! Emma was adorable (I loved her Skeeter), Viola gave a deep, emotional performance, Octavia was hilarious …and Bryce, well, she made an excellent villainess. I just cannot say enough about the way the movie unfolds. It might have been a tad over-long (clocking in at 137 minutes) but it is nevertheless a very special movie with very special characters – and that is what makes The Help special.
(Cautions: there is discussion about miscarriages and one woman is seen sprawled on her bathroom floor with a pool of blood around her. Elsewhere, implications suggest a man beats his wife; another person is said to have been shot. There is some social drinking and a few swear words. Plus, a couple of crude jokes: one of which you just cannot help but laugh at. The Help is rated PG13)