The Road to the Oscars: The Help (2011)
So everyone should know my thoughts on The Help if you read my article I reposted about why it doesn’t deserve an Oscar nomination, but I’m going to try to ignore that. I’m going to stay firm and review this as a film, and not as a film whose message I despise. With that, The Help is cute and funny with some fantastic performances, but it’s certainly no better a movie than others I’ve seen.
Skeeter (Emma Stone) has recently graduated from school and has returned to her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. Upon her return she notices the distinction between the wealthy white women who are her friends, and the black hired maids. When Queen Bee Hilly Holbrooke (Bryce Dallas Howard) starts to push a bill creating a separate bathroom for the help, Skeeter decides to write a book from their perspective. With the help of one maid named Abilene (Viola Davis), the town of Jackson will soon be turned on its ear.
So without going into another discussion about this films views on Civil Rights, I did enjoy the movie upon seeing it in theaters as well as DVD. I haven’t read the book by Kathryn Stockett so I can’t comment towards it accuracy but the film does have a full script and I’m a sucker for female ensemble films. Emma Stone sells this movie as the forward-thinking, “I don’t need a man” heroine of the film. Yes, she does get told by a potential boyfriend that maybe it’s best she remains single (dick!) but for the majority of the film she’s not bemoaning being single, that’s a job for her mother. I love Stone in all her work, even when I don’t enjoy the film, and she captivated me.
She was upstaged by the charm, sweetness, and vulnerability of Jessica Chastain as the outcast Celia. Chastain looked like Marilyn Monroe and her ditzy manner isn’t meant to be intentionally stupid as it could have been. She’s white trash to be sure, but it’s her genuine kindness that allows her to keep the love of Hilly’s ex-boyfriend Johnny (Mike Vogel). A character like this would usually be stupid as a lone character trait, but she genuinely wants to fit in and dammit if she’s not totally sweet.
Bryce Howard continues to play a string of bitch characters and Spencer and Davis are good, but again their story is a highly idealized version of the Civil Rights movement.
So I know this isn’t much a review, it’s one of my shorter ones, but after hearing for the last few months how “revolutionary” this movie is, I’ve exhausted my words talking about it. I probably would catch it on HBO, and it is a fun movie to watch, but its hype has really ruined it in the longterm.
Kristen Lopez View All
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.
I feel like I tend to avoid movies as soon as they reach a certain level of hype. A good example is The Social Network, which I still have yet to see. I remember for a while people were like, “OMG like this movie about facebook is like the greatest movie evvaarrrr!!!” Though I might check that out since I was a fan of David Fincher’s directorial style in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but personally I’d prefer it if Jesse Eisenberg would forever remain the main character of Zombieland in my eyes instead of Mark Zuckerberg.