Posted by: ckckred | February 19, 2012

The Help is a strong, likable film

Minny (Octavia Spencer) and Aibileen (Viola Davis) talking about their employers.

Note: As part of my Oscar run-up, I’ve been reviwing every Best Picture nominee I haven’t already reviewed.  The Help finishes up this run.

Before I saw the film, I had heard much about The Help.  I was wondering what my opinion would be after hearing all of the different views.  After I watched the film, I can say I really loved and enjoyed it.

It isn’t very surprising that The Help is very likable.  Out of all the Oscar nominees, The Help is the highest grossing, and received over $100 million domestically.  It’s the kind of movie made to appeal to widespread audiences AND the Oscars.

Based on the book by Kathryn Stockett, The Help is about a group of African-American maids living in Jackson, Mississippi the early 1960s, the days of the Civil Rights movement.  The main character of the film is Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), a maid who works raising little white girls, which she is good at and gives care and affection to.  Her best friend Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is a sharp-mouth maid who is fired from Hilly Holbrook’s (Bryce Dallas Howard) house after using the indoor bathroom.

Why would Minny be fired for doing that?  Because Hilly is trying to pass a law to get the African-American maids to use bathrooms stalls outside the house, a clear act of segregation.  Hilly calls it “separate, but equal,” though the outside bathrooms are in far worse conditions.

The maids also face the bitter racism of their employers.  They give no regard or second thought to the maids, and this makes Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) upset.

Skeeter is a recent college graduate of Old Miss, and works writing cleaning advice columns in the local newspaper.  When she discovers the maids’ plight, she decides to write a book covering their perspectives of their employers.  She manages to get both Aibileen and Minny to join, but it is hard getting other maids because they’re too scared they may get caught.  In Mississippi back then, racism was high and broad and people could be killed or have their house burned down if they preached for civil rights.

The movie is really about the courage of the maids and their struggle for equal rights.  Eventually, Minny gets a new job working for Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain of The Tree of Life), a jumpy woman who just married a businessman.  Though more of a substory of the main plot, Minny and Celia’s relation is the strongest part of the film.

What I liked so much about the movie wasn’t the story but the acting.  The film has an immensely strong cast, with both Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer (the movie’s show stealer) giving terrific performances.  Earlier this year, The Help won Best Ensemble at the SAG, beating out strong contenders like The Artist or The Descendants.

There are many films about the civil rights movement, and The Help probably isn’t the best or most notable.  But it’s a great watch and one of the most emotional films of the year.  Oh yeah, right now I’m rooting for a victory of Viola Davis against Meryl Streep.


  1. I agree with just about everything you say. Minny and Celia’s relationship is beautiful, and I hope Spencer and Viola Davis both get Oscars.

    • Octavia Spencer definitely deserves it, and Viola Davis is a no-brainer for best actress, but I’m worried that the Oscars may pick Meryl Streep for the dull The Iron Lady instead.

  2. Great post!

    • Thank you!

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