Thursday, August 11, 2011

Movie with Abe: The Help

The Help
Directed by Tate Taylor
Released August 10, 2011

Posters and trailers for “The Help” advertise it as a light-hearted film about the creation of a sensational novel about the lives of African-American maids set in the heart of Mississippi in the 1960s. It’s the kind of story that appears to telling a rather joyful tale of triumph set against the backdrop of the true history of segregation and discrimination in the South. Much of the controversy for this particular film surrounds the trivial nature of this novel and film in the place of American chronology, and what’s ultimately most important is that the cinematic adaptation is an enticing, appealing film with an energetic spirit and a positive message.

“The Help” is a drama laced with comedy, placing an important story in a historical context and helping it to come alive by showcasing strong, endearing characters with rich personalities and willful attitudes. While some might argue that the light nature of the material detracts from the significance of the greater events of the time period, it actually helps to make the subject matter more bearable, and turns what might otherwise be a dark, ineffective downer into a highly enjoyable and winning film, with an enthralling script that manages to make two hours and 17 minutes entirely compelling, thanks in no small part to a fantastic cast.

Emma Stone has made some fantastic choices in terms of movie roles since bursting onto the scene in “Superbad” just four years ago. While she certainly has a bright future ahead, her career will see much meatier roles than this. Her part in “The Help,” which arguably a leading one, is hardly the most memorable, nor is it supposed to be. That honor is shared by four actresses, all playing very different characters with separate but crucial functions in the film’s overall story. Viola Davis serves as the film’s dramatic heart as the kind and loyal maid Aibileen, while Octavia Spencer delivers an entirely hilarious, film-stealing performance as the snarky, sarcastic maid Minnie. Bryce Dallas Howard, finally playing a part that fleshes out her impressive talents, is unabashedly cruel and magnificently evil as primped wife Hilly, and rising star Jessica Chastain, who has three other major movie roles, in “The Tree of Life,” “The Debt,” and “Take Shelter” this calendar year, is charming as the delightfully off housewife Celia. The four women lead a marvelous ensemble that really makes “The Help” a complete success.


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