The Help (2011)



Critic Consensus: Though arguably guilty of glossing over its racial themes, The Help rises on the strength of its cast -- particularly Viola Davis, whose performance is powerful enough to carry the film on its own.

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The Help stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny-three very different, extraordinary women in Mississippi during the 1960s, who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project that breaks societal rules and puts them all at risk. From their improbable alliance a remarkable sisterhood emerges, instilling all of them with the courage to transcend the lines that define them, and the realization that sometimes those lines are made to be crossed-even if it means bringing everyone in town face-to-face with the changing times. -- (C) DreamWorks
PG-13 (for thematic material)
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Emma Stone
as Skeeter Phelan
Viola Davis
as Aibileen Clark
Bryce Dallas Howard
as Hilly Holbrook
Octavia Spencer
as Minny Jackson
Jessica Chastain
as Celia Foote
Ahna O'Reilly
as Elizabeth Leefolt
Anna Camp
as Jolene French
Eleanor Henry
as Mae Mobley
Emma Henry
as Mae Mobley
Chris Lowell
as Stuart Whitworth
Cicely Tyson
as Constantine Jefferson
Mike Vogel
as Johnny Foote
Sissy Spacek
as Missus Walters
Rian Kerwin
as Robert Phelan
Brian Kerwin
as Robert Phelan
Wes Chatham
as Carlton Phelan
Allison Janney
as Charlotte Phelan
Aunjanue Ellis
as Yule Mae Davis
Ted Welch
as William Holbrook
Shane McRae
as Raleigh Leefolt
Roslyn Ruff
as Pascagoula
Tarra Riggs
as Gretchen
Leslie Jordan
as Mr. Blackly
Mary Steenburgen
as Elaine Stein
Carol Lee
as Pearly
Ashley Johnson
as Mary Beth Caldwell
Ritchie Montgomery
as Bus Driver
Don Brock
as White Bus Passenger
Florence Roach
as Maid #1
Nelsan Ellis
as Henry the Waiter
David Oyelowo
as Preacher Green
La Chanze
as Rachel
Dana Ivey
as Grace Higginbotham
Becky Fly
as Woman in Grocery Store
Cleta Ellington
as Donna the Receptionist
John Taylor
as Missus Walters' Date
Charles Cooper
as Tire Winner @ Ballroom #1
Lady Diana Cooper
as Tire Winner @ Ballroom #2
Coyt Bailey
as Party Guest
Wade Cottonfield
as Lead Singer of Band
Kelsey Scott
as Sugar Jackson
Amy Beckwith
as Bridge Club
Sloane Fair
as Bridge Club
Anna Jennings
as Bridge Club
Lauren Miller
as Bridge Club
Elizabeth Smith
as Bridge Club
Kathryn Ursy
as Bridge Club
Steffany Ward
as Bridge Club
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News & Interviews for The Help

Critic Reviews for The Help

All Critics (205) | Top Critics (46)

Yes, it gets a bit sentimental. Yes, some 'Ya-Ya Sisterhood' friendship clichés creep in. Yes, it glosses history. But it's also heartfelt, hilarious and the cast is a dream-team topped by Viola Davis.

Full Review… | October 25, 2011
Time Out
Top Critic

If you lived through that time, it is incredible to contemplate how much has changed (and how much hasn't) over the years, not only in race relations but in attitudes toward women. That's part of the fascination of watching The Help, which...

August 19, 2011
Top Critic

"The Help" takes us on a pop-cultural tour that savors the picturesque, and strengthens stereotypes it purports to shatter.

Full Review… | August 11, 2011
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic

Thanks to a talented cast -- starting with leads Emma Stone, Viola Davis​ and Octavia Spencer​ -- the movie is often entertaining. But The Help should have been challenging too.

August 11, 2011
Denver Post
Top Critic

As in many reductive period pieces, there are no real characters here, just archetypes, namely reactionary cretins and sensitive souls who anticipate modern attitudes.

Full Review… | August 11, 2011
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The Help is a high-functioning tearjerker, but the catharsis it offers feels glib and insufficient, a Barbie Band-Aid on the still-raw wound of race relations in America.

Full Review… | August 11, 2011
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Help


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.

Tony Gandía
Tony Gandía

Super Reviewer

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.

Jens S.
Jens S.

Super Reviewer

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.

Thomas Johnston
Thomas Johnston

Super Reviewer

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