The women of 60s Missisipi
Starring Emma Stone and a deluge of other talented actors, none of which are men, (if you want to see a man in this movie concentrate on the extras;)The Help is a story mainly of relationships between Black maids and their households in 1960s Mississippi, (relationships that turn out to be epically complicated for a time of such structured etiquette.) Before I start telling you why you should watch this film, I should come clean; this kind of thing is exactly up my street, I love Stone, (Crazy Stupid Love and Easy A,) I’m a major history geek, (particularly American History and women’s history) and like most, a bit of a sucker for a feel good movie, that will make me laugh and cry, basically a good cliché.
Stone plays a young graduate whose origins lie right in the middle of stuck up, Stepford style southern society. Having returned home from University she establishes herself as the black sheep of the community, building relationships with two black maids- neither of which work for her household. Aibileen, (Viola Davis, Eat Pray Love and Knight and day) and Minnie (Octavia Spencer, Big Bang Theory and Drag me to Hell;)each playing the stereotypical roles of ‘doting nanny who’s love for the child she cares for is more important than the oppression she faces’ (played by Davis) and (Spencer) playing her role with such attitude she doesn’t want anything from white people not even their help.
Basically, through Skeeter’s ambition to be a writer the plot evolves to these three main characters secretly writing a tell all account of being a maid for ungrateful women who have forged careers out of being a wife, all of which are shown on more than one occasion to be utterly dependant on the maids they treat so poorly.
There is so much more to the movie, and I’m going to try and stop referencing the actual plot the less you know before you watch it the better- I saw it blind without even watching the trailer and I think it’s the best way.
The beauty of this movie, for me anyway, is in the character dynamics and the relationships on screen, I swear it’s actually believable. The plot simply displays the connections amongst the characters and I really don’t think the spotlight shines on any one individual.
It’s about women getting stuck in together, some of the developments are devastating and I don’t mind telling you I was welling up a fair few times, I found myself falling in love with characters that weren’t even on screen for more than ten minutes- Missus Walters, look out for her- that’s me when I’m 70!
It’s not a particularly surprising watch, the plot isn’t what makes it a good movie, and it’s terribly clichéd- but that’s kind of to be expected there’s only so many ways you can skin the ‘overcoming adversity’ cat.
As a girl, I fully recommend this film, its emotional, the characters are well played- especially Emma Stone as Skeeter Phelan and head bitch, Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard, 50/50 and Victoria 2.0 in the Twilight Saga) It shows not only the racial oppression of the maids, but also the crap lives of the Stepford set, at the end of the day they treat their maids like crap because they’re given ZERO control over anything else, it’s not right, but for the Stepford wives the only authority they have is over their maid- they’re not even in control of themselves, (or at least not in this film.)
This isn’t a film to analyse. Any issues with Stone’s chain smoking of filter cigarettes, or Disney’s simplified, production have to be forgiven if you want to get anything out of watching it. It’s great acting and at the end of it you feel satisfied about the outcome. As for me I’ve quenched my chick flick thirst for about six months, and saw Stepford leader Hilly Holbrook get her comeuppance when she unknowingly eats her maid’s shit. Oh, and gladly Stone’s character finds her own rewards at the end- none of which get her married- So that’s one cliché averted.
This film is out on DVD and available in all the usual places.