The Help - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Help Reviews

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The Gandiman
Super Reviewer
½ January 5, 2012
There's nothing particularly wrong with "The Help".

Well acted, briskly shot with a story that is simply told without much complexity. But for a film that tries to be important it isn't orchestrated substantively enough to be as raw and hard-hitting that a film about this subject matter should be. But it's still a film worth watching as "The Help" has some impressive points that make it a film to be appreciated.

Based on Kathryn Stockett's best selling novel of the same name, "The Help" tells the story of a young white woman, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (played by Emma Stone), and her decision to write a controversial book from the point of view of the help (the maids). She convinces two maids Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) to tell their stories exposing the casual racism they face on a daily basis from their white families.

The performances are strong. Viola Davis anchors a cast with power and she's a key reason why "The Help" works. She plays Aibileen Clark with an air of dignity, compassion and strength that is a sight to behold. She could have easily taken the character into caricature mode (the kindly old maid) but she doesn't - and for that reason Davis is earning some well-deserved kudos and strong Oscar buzz.

She is surrounded by some nice revelations as well. Octavia Spencer gets the role of her life as outspoken Minny Jackson. Like Davis, she walks the fine line between caricature and realism and pulls it off. Spencer's role is a particularly tough one as the "sassy" role has been done to death, but her portrayal is spot on and believable. Jessica Chastain is having a career year and her role here like Davis' and Spencer's is also borderline cartoon and she also nails it. These three standout performances elevate "The Help" from average status.

The rest of the film's performance don't walk that fine line quite as well. While it's hard to find fault with Emma Stone's solid performance, you can't say the same of Bryce Dallas Howard who starts off fine but then turns her character into Cruella DeVil. Her villainy is so outrageous at times (she puts her Mom in a home for laughing at her) that by the time she gets her, not surprising, comeuppance it doesn't ring true.

"The Help" in its attempt to be palatable to all audience glosses over a lot of the real serious themes the film is about. The racism is given the Hollywood treatment so the full impact of what the Help went through doesn't make the audience feel too uncomfortable.

At least the film doesn't entirely pander to the audience (like the atrocious "Crash" did). "The Help" is a smartly constructed, watchable film that has lots of great moments, but at the end doesn't leave much of an impact regarding the subject matter.
Super Reviewer
May 26, 2011
Well-intended but somewhat simplistic in its depiction of the problem. It doesn't exactly help that the performances vary from excellent to overacting. Entertaining enough but hardly doing justice to the topic.
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2011
What a GREAT movie!! It inspires me to think one day 50 years from now people will see a movie with gay characters and say.... it was because of people like these (characters in The Help) that helped change the attitude about discrimination.
Super Reviewer
April 24, 2013
Okay, so here's the truth: I'm a middle-aged, white male... I didn't read the book and I assumed, based on the fact that this is a virtually an all-female cast, that this was some sort of chick flick. Boy, was I wrong!

This is an incredible film that not only pays justice to the bestseller on which it's based (according to those who have read the book AND seen the film), but is phenomenally cast, with exceptional performances by Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Allison Janney. Veteran actresses Sissy Spacek and Cicely Tyson also deliver incredible performances. While Tyson's character is central to the storyline, her role comprises what seems to be a few, precious minutes of the 2:20 running time, she delivers, in my opinion, one of the most powerful and moving moments in the in which she doesn't even utter a line (trust me, you'll know when you see it.)

The Help also delivers some very funny moments and will make you laugh. I'll go so far as to say that this film and a few of its cast members will draw some Oscar nominations. I certainly think this takes Stone into a whole new level.

The racial imbalances of 1963 are well illustrated in "The Help," and will, no doubt, underscore how far America has come,.Either way, this is a powerful movie that needs to be seen.. 5 stars . 4=20=13
Super Reviewer
March 31, 2013
A well-intentioned but overdone and overacted story concerning an aspiring writer (Emma Stone) who desires to write a book about maids, being that she was practically raised by one, and how she seeks the help of two working ones (Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer) in capturing how difficult the life of a maid can be. As said, it has its heart in the right place, but director Tate Taylor must have told his actors to be completely overdramatic at every point they could, not just verbally, but with their physical motions as well, because after a while it starts to feel like a bad melodrama instead of a good, rock-solid drama. With that said, it is entertaining nonetheless, if way too sentimental sometimes, but it is still a movie that correctly focuses on how hard these people worked and the kind of crap they had to put up with from rich, stubborn rich white ladies. It might lean a little too much on stereotypes at times, but it tries to give a look on just how spoiled some people down south were. Definitely a highly, highly over-rated movie (Best Picture nominee!? Really?), but one that is far from terrible. Watchable, but missable.
Super Reviewer
March 9, 2013
A beautiful story beautifully told. Actually, I think it was even worse for African Americans of the time. So it's a little Hollywoody, but still a powerfull statement about the plight of African Americans in the 60s redneck South.
Super Reviewer
July 28, 2012
What a beautiful, inspiring film!
Tired of Previews
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2011
Directed by Tate Taylor, Dreamworks, 2011. Starring Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Sissy Spacek.

Genre: Drama

Question: Do you feel stuck or made to feel like your life can't get better? You think if you even try to and improve your life you will just be beaten down and told "NO, you aren't allowed to do that", right? Everyone should have one thing in this world that allows them to feel there is a chance at change. It's called hope - a powerful emotion. And once you have hope change can begin. Well, the movie, The Help, showed that if you have the courage to share your story, no matter how scared you are, or oppressed, you will eventually be free and happy. As the tagline goes, "Change begins with a whisper."

In The Help the women of Jackson, Mississippi, specifically the black women, can't pursue their dreams; actually they can't pursue anything due to the racism that was so prevalent in this country in the early 60's in the South. I will tell you not many things make me angry but racism disturbs me so that this movie was particularly hard for me to watch without getting overly emotional. (I really need to carry around more tissues.) The movie represented the harsh reality these women faced on a daily basis by society. There were parts that were light in nature but as soon as you let your guard down the story smacked you with another blow. It was an emotional roller coaster for me.

The story starts with Aibileen (played brilliantly by Viola Davis), a black maid, working for a white family. She basically does everything for them: the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking and raising their daughter. This type of job is something she has always done - since she was a teenager. She had no choice. Her mother was a maid and her grandmother was a house slave. She wasn't allowed to pursue an alternative employment. However, she loves the little girl and knows that her mother can't raise her properly. You will witness as to why.

Then Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan comes home from college. Emma Stone plays Skeeter. She is the only woman in town who isn't married with children and she doesn't mind, much to her mother's dismay. She wants to become a writer (yay!). She returns to witness the rampant racism that seems to plague her town, her friends and family. She is then inspired to write about it - specifically from the maid's point of view(s). However, no one will talk to her about it. They were too afraid.

I don't want to go into too much detail as usual but the women portrayed some of the strongest characters and a couple of the most hideous human beings I have ever seen on film. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer played the two main maids in this story and their performances were stellar. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they were both nominated for many awards.

Bryce Dallas Howard was brilliant in this film as Hilly Hollbrook, one of the most racist people in the film. She played it so well that when she came on-screen my heart sank because I knew she would say or do something so hideous - and she usually did. But don't worry - karma takes a hand in this story - a brilliant hand.

Emma Stone (Skeeter) also did a fantastic job as the one who started the wave of change. Through her questions, writing and her own story she allowed the black woman of Jackson to have a voice - something they never had before. Her whisper sparked a revolution.

I have to admit towards the end of the movie the story got a little choppy; and I have feeling the book this movie was based on (by Kathryn Stockett) went in further into detail about the racism, the relationship between these women and the change that took place. Many recommended this book to me last summer but never got around to it. I might just have to read it now.

Have you started your whisper yet? Change can happen.

My favorite thing: The inspiration this movie gave me and to remind me to fight for what I want.

My least favorite thing: Knowing that racism was that bad in this country.

Rating: PG-13
Length: 137 minutes

Review: 8 out of 10
Super Reviewer
May 5, 2012
I absolutely loved this movie, i thought it was a really emotional, at times heart breaking, it was funny and exceptionally acted!
This movie is brilliant throughout although maybe a little slow theres enough humour to keep you interested!
Its a powerful story about a white woman clearly influenced by her own experiences with The Help that she decides to write a story, or a true account of collections straight from The Helps mouths!
It truly is a fantastic movie it is brilliant and i loved every minute of it !
Super Reviewer
November 3, 2010
I really had my doubts about this movie, fearing that it would be another typical "white messiah helps African Americans in need" film. And, while there are some elements of that in here, thankfully, the film shows that the whites need help from the blacks, too, so it's not a one sided affair.

Set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, the story follows Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a recent college grad who, instead of hunting for a husband, wants to embark on a career as a writer. Inspired by her own upbringing and disgusted by the racism of her colleagues and friends she'd lost touch with, she decides to write about racial issues from the perspective of the help- the maids who spend their lives raising white children who sadly tend to grow up to be just like their parents.

Along the way, the film touches upon some really big issues, and gets into various facets of the time period during this volatile era. It's a noble and well meaning film, but, it still plays it safe and sugar coated for the most part. Oh sure, there are some times when it gets edgy, but ultimately the film fails to be as powerful as it should be since it doesn't take that many risks. Also, it doesn't help that it tries to do soo much, but handles it all by just glossing over thngs and painting with broad strokes.

The film gets the pont across of course, but the scholar in me can't help but take issue with the end result. Maybe had the script been more risky, less Hollywood, less feel good, and more concerned with why this era and all the minutae of race relations are so volatile, the end result could have been more powerful. That, and making it a miniseries to really flesh out the details and characterizations wouldn't have hurt, either.

I will defend this film though, because it at least tries to be important, even if it doesn't quite do it in the best way. That, and the acting is wonderful (for the most part), with some really great moments, and a decent balance between humor and heartbreaking. Indeed, this is a moving film, and I admittedly did tear up multiple times...just like I was supposed to.

Emma Stone is great as Skeeter, showing her range as an actress, with a solid turn in a rahter thankless role. Bryce Dalls Howard shines as the malevolently vile and racist socialite ringleader Hilly, although the part is written so cartoonishly, the one dimensionalness of the character takes off the edge and insight needed to make her seem like a real character. Still though, Howard sells it nicely. Jessica Chastain, as the outcast naive socialite with a white trash background is tricky. She seems cartoony at first, but Chastain's performance saves things, and the character does actually become one to care about, though some of the pandering is a bit uncomfortable. The real stars and emotional core of the film though, are Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. They are the true focus of the film, and provide the strongest performances. They are the ones we care about the most, and the accolades they got were well deserved. Both Davis and Spencer got Oscar nods (with Spencer winning), and despite Spike Lee missing the point, this is a high point for the world of African American thespians. As much as I loved these two, especially Spencer, who steals both the dramatic and comedic scenes, I think my favortie performer had to be Sissy Spacek as Hilly's mother- a character who really draws some of the best non Spencer generated laughs.

Okay, so I've rambled on for quite a while with this one. I can't help it. Films like these just bring it out in me, and it's easy to get worked up with materia llike this. I'm giving this film extra credit for the cast, cinematography, performances, and nobleness of it all, though I just wish that people would be more fearless when dealing with material like this, no matter how painful or incendiary.
Super Reviewer
May 21, 2011
Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Emma Stone give stunningly powerful performances in The Help. The powerful performances are what drives this film, and I hate to think what a mess it probably would have been if it weren't for these gifted actresses. Tate Taylor has done a relatively good job adapting the rather large novel into a rather long movie, and sometimes I found myself confused at jumps the plot had made and had expected the audience to just follow along. I think the plot wasn't given as much thought and careful construction as the performances were, but the story is still extremely powerful and moving. I guess one could also say that the film glosses over it's racial themes, but I think they keep enough of it in there so that the audience knows it's an issue. I mean, it's not really the focus of the film. The focus is definitely about the racial gap at the time, but it's not a history lesson, it's a character study on a few people who dared to bring the truth out into the open. Overall, The Help is hugely bolstered by the extremely powerful performances from the cast, but it's a good film that is definitely worth seeing.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
½ March 29, 2012
Sometimes the catalyst for change begins with the simple flush of a toilet. The Help stars Emma Stone as a would-be writer who, returning to her home in Jackson, Mississippi after college, decides to write a book telling the world how "the help" feels working for white folks all these years. Of course, it's a very taboo subject and many of the black women are reluctant to come forward with their stories. There are some irreverent questions and some pointed questions ("What's it like to raise white babies while someone else is raising yours?"), but it's not so much what these women say as it is they're saying anything at all. Jackson, Mississippi in the early 60s, (in fact, starting with the murder of Emmett Till in 1955) was ground zero for the civil rights movement. Mississippi, where Medgar Evers organized boycotts of service stations and was shot dead in the back by a gunman in the bushes in front of his home. There was a real threat and danger in the south at the time for those even considering equality among the races. "The Help" makes hushed references to these times, but more often than not, it focuses on the battle between the mean, rich preppy girl and the nerdy plain Jane girl. While there is some bigotry displayed, it feels tame, almost censored in order to appeal to today's more sensitive viewers. It's really two different films telling two different stories, and at two-and-a-half hours, it should've focused on one. In spite of it's flaws, it still manages to tell a human story and elicits emotions that play upon the audience's sense of justice. It also features some good, old-fashioned hollywood story telling, but it may have been just a trifle trite in dealing with it's subject matter. Despite oscar nominations and award-winning performances, there's nothing terribly extraordinary about The Help.
Super Reviewer
February 29, 2012
'The Help' seems to deserve most of its Oscar attention, but its not without its flaws. The archetypes that pollute the story are obvious and unwelcome. These characters have all been seen before (the do-good central female, the wealthy dictating woman, the oppressive mother, sagacious elders) and as an avid movie goer, it is such a turn off to see the same outlandish character traits in more than one movie. That being said, i thought this was a great adaption. The performances were committed and heartfelt with some very welcome surprises. The script was adapted well, and the transition from novel to film seemed pretty harmless. 'The Help' is not for any audience, but its core conflict and social commentary is interesting in itself, and is facilitated by great actors and a great story.
Super Reviewer
½ March 12, 2012
A great drama with awesome performances. A definite must see!
Super Reviewer
½ February 27, 2012
Though it has some flaws, The Help is a beautiful little story with some great performances.
Super Reviewer
½ March 1, 2012
Before I start, let me just say I didn't read the book. This is solely based on my opinion of the film. This is a damn good film. I didn't see it in theaters and it wasn't til a month after it came out on DVD I rented it. The reason for this is that I thought this to be a chick flick... I was dead wrong. This film had so much I didn't expect. The heart in this film was so real. This was one of the best ensemble films I've seen and I'm surprised more of the actresses weren't nominated for oscars. Octavia Spencer 100% deserved her award and I feel Viola Davis was robbed of hers. Emma Stone also gave an amazing performance, another great break through film for a comedic actress in doing a serious film such as Jonah Hill for Moneyball. If any film was going to take best pic from The Artist, it would have been this one. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone.
Super Reviewer
February 15, 2012
Viola Davis has only one scene in the movie, "Doubt." It's not a very long scene, but it is the entire crux of that film. In her few short minutes in front of the camera, Davis delivers the heart and soul of her character. It is a scene that should be studied in every acting school. Now, she plays the lead, Aibileen, in the much anticipated The Help.
There is no doubt Davis stands in a league of her own in this picture. And that is quite a feat since she shares much of the screen with Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Emma Stone, and Octavia Spencer - who also gives a performance in a league of its own.
The Help is a wonderfully acted and wonderfully shot movie. Where it stumbles is in its execution of the narrative, which quickly becomes an exercise in audience manipulation as opposed to an honest story about racism and the wonderful women who struggled to overcome in. The sympathetic characters are very three dimensional, but the villains are stupid, evil, despicable, and essentially white trash. I never lived in this time or this place, so I could be talking out of my ass (then again, so can a lot of us); however, I felt this movie falls short of greatness because it often eschews its themes in favour of glossy, tear-jerking moments, which unfortunately oversimplify the issues. I enjoyed The Help quite a bit, but it tried too hard to move me in a certain way, and thus, I never became as emotionally invested into it as I did with a film like To Kill a Mockingbird, or even A Time To Kill.
It's a shame really, but the performances are simply outstanding.
Super Reviewer
½ February 29, 2012
Fantastic book and an equally good movie.
Jessica Chastain stole my heart. She was fantastic as Celia Foote.
Super Reviewer
½ January 12, 2011
Cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Ahna O'Reilly, Allison Janney, Anna Camp, Cicely Tyson, Mike Vogel, Sissy Spacek

Director: Tate Taylor

Summary: In 1960s Jackson, Miss., aspiring writer Eugenia Phelan crosses taboo racial lines by conversing with Aibileen Clark about her life as a housekeeper, and their ensuing friendship upsets the fragile dynamic between the haves and the have-nots. When other long-silent black servants begin opening up to Eugenia, the disapproving conservative Southern town soon gets swept up in the turbulence of changing times.

My Thoughts: "It's always a plus when a film does the book it is based on justice. I loved the book. I couldn't wait to see it played out on the big screen. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are fantastic in this film. Their strength and triumph to over come their tribulations is heroic and inspiring. Emma Watson is great as Skeeter as is Bryce Dallas as Hilly Holbrook. There is a part in the book where an intruder comes to Celia's home and I was hoping to see it on the screen because it was so funny in the book. But unfortunately it didn't make it. But a lot of the book did make it to screen. It's just as good of a movie as it was of a read. Great directing, performances, and of course writing makes this a film not to miss, and a book to read."
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