Saturday, August 13, 2011

"The Help": An Enthusiastic Recommendation

My guess is that those who didn't grow up in the South will believe "The Help" is an exaggeration. Americans, they'll think, can't possibly have been that mean. Let me tell you they were. I knew a lot of the people populating this movie and revisiting brought up a lot of things that nearly turned into vomit for me.

This one has to be one of the best stories on a movie screen this year because of its topic, its directing, acting, set design, costuming, music--the whole she-bang. The headliners and the people being talked about most: Emma Stone as Skeeter (whom I have simply adored since "Easy A"), Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny.

The best performance in the movie, though, is from Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard's daughter) as the loathsome Hilly, a villian who sits up there with some of the true nasties I've seen. Forget that you hate her by the second or third scene of the movie. You have to keep saying "she's acting, she's acting, she's ...", but the acting is so good that she may have marked herself the way Mary Tyler Moore did in "Ordinary People."

The movie, of course, is from a popular novel and is about a young woman from Jackson, Miss., who has just graduated from Ole Miss and goes home to become a writer. In the course of getting her first job at the local newspaper and watching local domestics being treated shabbily, she comes up with the idea to write a book from their perspectives, smack in the middle of Ground Zero for the Civil Rights Movement. Writing the book is dangerous--illegal in 1960s Mississippi--but the frustration of these women is such that taking the chance is worth it.

The movie is not likely to win an Oscar because critics aren't knocked out by it. Audiences, however, are loving it (92 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating and rare applause earlier this evening when I went). I liked it a lot and strongly recommend it to those who grew up in the South and those who didn't.


  1. I am reading the book now and then I will see the movie, hate to do it the other way around. It is a great book and it is true to life as I remember it and have heard it told.

  2. Loved the book—so I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.