The Help managed to make me laugh out loud, move me to tears (more than once) and gave me a stark reminder of the way things were, not even 60 years ago in the land of the free. The film is based on the 2009 best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, directed by Tate Taylor (Pretty Ugly People) and includes heart-warming performances by the fantastic Emma Stone (Superbad, Zombieland) Octavia Spencer (Spiderman, Ugly Betty) and Viola Davis (Traffic, Solaris).
Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 60’s just as the civil rights movement is rumbling in Alabama, North Carolina and elsewhere, Miss Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Stone) has returned from college to try and flex her creative writing muscles in her home town. Getting a job answering ‘home maintenance’ questions for a column in a local paper, the un-domesticated Miss Eugenia turns to Aibileen Clark (Davis), the maid of one of her fellow socialites for help. The sudden and hushed disappearance of her beloved Octavia, the maid of her own family that raised her, spurs her to question the small town, old fashioned beliefs and values evident throughout her community, friends and family.
Enlisting the reluctant help of Aibileen and her friend, recently fired maid Minnie (Spencer), Miss Eugenia looks to gain some insight into their lives. Hoping to land a writers job in New York City, Skeeter starts to ask the women who raised so many of her friends, and now their own babies, some uncomfortable questions about their lives working for white folks. Increasingly dismayed at the attitude towards ‘the help’ from her peers and others, Skeeter sets upon the task of recruiting more maids to come forward and share their stories. Although anonymity is promised, fear prevents many from stepping forward until the local snooty racist, Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), Minnie’s ex employer, has her current maid arrested and publicly beaten by police for stealing.
The Help explores the courage, fear and friendship felt between these women born into different worlds, who are connected through their love and care for each other. When the final, scandalous book is published it sends ripples through Jackson, Mississippi and the racist snobby women who once didn’t think twice about their actions start to realize that this book is in fact a frank, hilarious and damning account of the views that seem to be keeping their community and others years behind the rest of the United States. Although revenge is a dish best served chocolaty for some, realization comes before it is too late for others, leaving us with a new sense of hope, change and revolution.
Although hilarious throughout, the seriousness of the subject is never lost. I thought The Help was fantastically acted and directed, putting myself in the actors’ shoes; there must have been parts which were uncomfortable to shoot. Friendship, hope, faith, courage and loss bind these women together, black and white, and I defy anyone who isn’t moved by this beautiful film.
A triumph, a lesson and a heart-warmer.
Kasia works at Phoenix Square front of house in the cafe/bar. She is studying towards a level 3 practitioner qualification in Massage Therapy and Beauty Specialism. Her other interests include being a gym fanatic and a music lover. She would also like this opportunity to shamelessly plug the legendary Uncle Frank Xmas Show 30th December at The Donkey pub on Welford Road! Tickets £10, 0116 270 5042, don’t miss out!!