Movie Review: the Help
I was pretty sure this movie was going to make me feel guilty for being white, but honestly it managed to avoid that. I guess it was because the white people in the movie acted in a manner alien to most of my life experience that they felt like a different race entirely. I guess I got open minded at some point.
Anyway, the movie. It’s not my usual fare, but I actually like it a lot. Going in I was afraid I might doze off, but in spite of the lack of explosions, car chases, or anything resembling action the movie held my attention for the entirety of the film. There were some attractive women, but most of them were acting in such a reprehensible manner that I felt not a lot for them. The acting was great all around, the setting and scenery perfect, and the story compelling.
It’s a story told in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi about the African American maids who serviced the homes of white people. They are treated reprehensibly, and within the first ten minutes you hate most of their employers. There is one cute white girl who is trying to write a book about the stories. The biggest hurdle she has to overcome is the very legitimate fear the maids feel about getting not only in trouble or fired but actually attacked and possibly killed for speaking to her, but with the help of one maid, than another, she eventually gathers dozens of embarrassing stories. Most of the movie is more or less a series of embarrassing vignettes for the whites of the town as the maids become more and more comfortable talking to her. Some kinds of justice are served up, and some kind of injustices as well. I won’t say it’s a totally satisfying movie, in that in the end you still feel like certain people really didn’t get a fair deal, but you are not totally overwhelmed by the unfairness of the final outcome.
The stars. Great story. Two stars. Good acting all around. One star. No need to suspend my disbelief. One story. Some funny moments, including one of truly wonderful and hilarious justice. One star. I can honestly say I felt connected with the three main characters, and even with a lot of the supporting characters. One star. They kept the period stuff dead on accurate. One star. Emma Stone (Zombieland, Superbad, super hot) was great. I am almost ready to forgive her for Crazy, Stupid Love. One star. The managed to avoid the temptation to “Hollywood it up” by adding stupid cliche movie crap. One star. There was a nice, well developed sub plot that I think added a lot. One star. Total: ten stars.
Now the black holes. I felt the pacing could have been a little better. Towards the end, after the book was released and we saw all the horrified reactions of the white people, it seemed to drag on without contributing a lot to the film. One black hole. I had multiple moments where I was so frustrated with the injustice of what was going on I wanted to travel back in time and set fire to a couple houses. One black hole. Emma Stone’s character had to live up to the “girls like jerks” stereotype (which, ironically, is exactly what her character did in Crazy, Stupid Love). One black hole. While a good story, the director seems to really be going for the low hanging fruit. You are pulled into the emotions of the film from only the simplest of terms, with no real exploration of the more complicated aspects of 1962 Mississippi, like how can little girls raised lovingly by African American maids grow up to become completely racist a-holes? It’s is touched on briefly in the opening monologue and kind of dropped from there. One black hole. Total: 4 black holes.
Overall a great movie, with a total of 6 stars. That is a high score from me of a movie with no special effects budget. See it in a theater if you can, or NetFlix it when it comes out on DvD.
Incidentally, I donated a bunch of nerd t shirts like this Alien one to my friends at the Geek Down show. I met these guys at a comic book convention earlier this year and they seem to have some really good shows, all nerd related, so you know I have to love them. Check them out if you get a chance.