Chris' Review of The Help
One of the most important reasons why writing in general is a very good life skill is because it is one of the many ways in which we can express ourselves and tell everyone else how we are feeling and explain why we are feeling this way. Editorials and reviews on certain subject matter, like what you are reading right now, are great examples of writing on a personal level. Sometimes, it's definitely tough doing so given the backlash you think you will get from what you write. In the end, it's good to express issues and concerns from both sides regarding a certain issue. A great example of a film that demonstrates the importance of this theory effectively is Tate Taylor's racial drama, The Help.
The film is set in Mississippi in the early 1960's and centers around a young white college graduate (Emma Stone) who has just landed a job as a journalist. When she has learned that her favorite childhood maid (Cicely Tyson) has quit working for her family and notices that her friend (Bryce Dallas Howard) has an extremely negative attitude about African-American maids, she decides that she wants to write a book about the lives of these maids and learn more about what they undergo on a daily basis. Among the maids who agree to share their experiences with her are a maid (Viola Davis) who has lost her son and forms a special bond with the daughter of the white woman she works for, and another maid (Octavia Spencer) who is a good cook but has an unfortunate reputation of being fired frequently due to her back talk.
The biggest reason why I enjoy The Help as much as I do is really because of the ensemble cast and the characters they play. Emma Stone is a very likable actress and I enjoy her in most of the films she's in, but I think that this is probably her finest role yet. On top of the fact that she successfully proves that she's capable of this sort of dramatic acting, her character is interesting as well since her motivations regarding why she is writing this book make her credible. In fact, I'd like to see Stone in more dramatic roles in the future rather than in comedic roles like in Easy A or Crazy, Stupid, Love. since I know she's got great potential and has good looks to accompany it.
I also thought Viola Davis gave an exceptional performance in this picture and her relationship with the daughter of whom she works for was very well handled. I liked the connection that they shared and that the kid liked spending time with her more than she enjoys being with her actual mother. This relationship also effectively demonstrates the struggles African-American maids have with raising the kids of white housewives and how it affects them emotionally.
Bryce Dallas Howard seems to be having a blast playing the cold-hearted, racist antagonist and she's enjoying every minute of being on screen. Octavia Spencer also turns in an impressive performance as a maid who may be too honest to everyone around her, for better and worse. I also liked Jessica Chastain's performance as a Marilyn Monroe type housewife who is shunned by all the other women in the area who hires Spencer to help her with her cooking, but treats her with much more respect than anyone else who's hired her. Most of the ensemble cast which also includes Mary Steenburgen as a writing editor and Sissy Spacek as Howard's more patient mother are very good.
I would be lying to my readers if I said The Help was without flaws since there are a few, but they're not too hurtful. One criticism is that the little bits of excremental humor (toilet humor, hurling, things of the sort), while it's better than most films out there, seems to be real forced and feels out of place especially in such a strong dramatic story such as this.
Another criticism and probably the aspect of the film that I most could have done without is the romance between Stone and Chris Lowell as her boyfriend. This part of the film feels much more forced and sort of puts the plot to a halt. While it's not really terrible and doesn't dominate the picture at all, it was unnecessary in the plot to begin with.
The main reason to see a film like The Help is for the sake of the talented ensemble cast and the colorful characters they bring to life. The Help is also well worth seeing for the main moral which inspires us that writing is an important means of expression and a way of making your points of view heard to other people. Even if you're not a fan of racial dramas, I honestly think you should check it out so you can have a better perspective of whatever overwhelming dilemmas these characters undergo.