Movie Review: ‘The Help’

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At the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, three very different and remarkable Mississippi women develop an unlikely friendship as they embark on a secret project that breaks societal rules and puts them all at risk.

Based on Kathryn Stockett’s No. 1 New York Times best-selling novel, The Help stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, Octavia Spencer as Minny and Academy Award nominated Viola Davis as Aibileen. Written and directed by Tate Taylor, the story shows what happens when the unspoken rules of a southern town are shattered by defiance, strength and hope.

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, the story begins with Skeeter, a young southern society woman, returning home after graduating from college to find that her childhood maid Constantine, played by Cicely Tyson, has mysteriously disappeared. Much to the dismay of her mother, Skeeter does not appear interested in following the trend of other southern women of the time and is more focused on her career than on marriage. Determined to become a writer, she lands a job writing a cleaning hints column with the local newspaper.

Seeking help with her column, Skeeter turns to Aibileen, her best friend’s maid. Aibileen is a wise African-American maid who has raised 17 children for her employers and recently suffered the tragic loss of her own son. Inspired by the stories she begins hearing from Aibileen and encouraged by a book editor in New York, Skeeter begins working on an undercover writing mission.

In search of more stories, Skeeter and Aibileen ask Minny, Aibileen’s sharp-tongued and sassy best friend, to join the project. Battling her own family and financial problems, Minny is first hesitant to cooperate, but eventually decides that her stories need to be heard. Aibileen and Minny soon find over a dozen more maids to come forth and share their stories, kicking their secret writing project into high gear.

Faced with danger and retaliation, Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny courageously form an unbreakable alliance to cross racial borders and break societal mores.

Director Tate Taylor, who was raised in Mississippi with the help of a Black maid, was particularly inspired to do this movie.

“This story spoke to me. I had a very special woman in my life, Carol Lee, who basically co-raised me with my mother, and I wanted to tell her story,” Taylor told the AFRO.

Not initially thrilled with the idea of her role, Octavia Spencer was taken aback by the story.

“My initial thoughts were basically just like everyone else when you say ‘maid’ in 1960. I rolled by eyes and thought, ‘Ugh. Really!’” explained Spencer. “Then I read the book and was pleasantly surprised. I felt it was important to see these African-American characters from this perspective and not as the stereotypical nursing ‘mammie’ without any context of what it was like for them.”

For Taylor and Spencer, whose friendship goes back almost 17 years, their hope is that after seeing the film people will be inspired to break boundaries and become leaders.

“I believe Emerson said it best, ‘Don’t go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’ And these women exemplify that,” said Spencer. “They are trailblazers and heroes in their own lives and communities, and I think people, definitely young people, need to know that they too have the power to be heroes of their own lives.”

Scheduled for nationwide release on Aug.10, the movie is packed with an amazing cast and a strong storyline. The characters really come to life to captivate and move audiences.

Inspiring, touching and filled with strength, humor and hope, {The Help} tells a timeless and compelling story about dreams and the power to create change.

4 stars, extremely good
Rated PG-13 for thematic material
Running Time: 137 minutes
Dreamworks Studio, Distributor: Disney