49. The Help

Set in the deep south of the early 60’s, The Help stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, a recent Ole Miss grad who longs to move to New York and become an author.  She accepts a position as a weekly advice columnist and as she searches for ideas she approaches the downtrodden African American housekeepers and nannies of her annoying socialite friends to interview for a book.

Skeeter first approaches Abilene (Viola Davis) who is a soft spoken nanny that spends more time with her employer’s kids than anyone else.  Although she cooks and cleans and takes incredible care of the children she is usually under-appreciated and ignored.  As Abilene struggles with the risks surrounding the interviews, her sassy and outlandish friend Minny (Octavia Jackson) joins the project with juicy gossip and unspeakable tales concerning her former employers.  Soon enough, the rest of the maids and nannies in town  contribute to Skeeter’s book in the face of terrible Jim Crow laws and their possible repercussions.

While this film is at times funny and uplifting, it is also hard to grasp just how terrible the early 60’s were for African Americans.  It was a shameful and dark time for our country and we still struggle with a system that proclaims “all men are created equal” with laws that don’t truly reflect it.

Nevertheless, Viola Davis and Octavia Jackson are the highlights of the film as they painfully portray life as the hired help with little pay and no thanks at all, and either one would be well deserving of an Oscar nomination.  Jessica Chastain is also charming as Celia, a clueless and lovable ditz of a housewife with Bryce Dallas Howard portraying a wonderfully snobby, shallow and terrible head Junior League bitch in town. With so many powerful characters, Emma Stone just about gets lost in the shuffle completely.

The Help is beautifully designed and tailored to feel like the 60’s, and juggles many characters that effectively contribute to the film.  Even if it is over the top in groveling for emotionally peaked moments, The Help is undeniably a moving story with humor and hope.

3.5 stars out of 5

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Categories: 100 Films

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