The Help

Rated PG-13 137 min. 2011

The Help — whatever its charms in literary form — is not a subtle story. It is a tale in which noble, downtrodden African-Americans in the still-segregated South, along with their forward-thinking white allies, do low-key battle with oppressive, vindictive racists. Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) is a veteran housekeeper in 1963 Jackson, Miss., raising the latest of the many white children for whom she has been a surrogate mother. She’s approached by Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone), a recent college graduate and aspiring writer who wants to create an anonymous collection of first-person stories from black housekeepers about their experiences. And when Aibileen finally agrees, she recruits her best friend, fiery Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), to the project. Finding a balance between the three lead characters is the biggest potential stumbling block for The Help as a film. Aibileen is the emotional center, and Minny gets all the best lines, so it’s not surprising that it feels as though their stories are more fully realized. But Skeeter gets somewhat lost here, an ugly duckling whose conflict between her emerging sense of social justice and her first romance with a well-connected young man (Chris Lowell) is dispatched in a matter of moments. The film confronts the same basic drawback of the book: There’s almost nothing about it that’s genuinely thorny.

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: Tate Taylor

Writer: Tate Taylor and Kathryn Stockett

Producer: Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan

Cast: Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Mike Vogel, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Jessica Chastain and Chris Lowell

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