Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: The Help

                  While It Has Its High Points, I May Still Need 'Help' On My Feelings On This Movie
              We have seen plenty of films recently and over the years dealing with the harsh struggles that blacks went through in the past, like 12 Years A Slave, Glory, The Butler, and The Color Purple. All of them showcase different stories and perspectives about the horrors blacks faced, and The Help is no exception. However, this film is somewhere in the middle in terms of its quality.
              The Help is set in 60's Jackson, Mississippi and is about an Ole Miss grad named Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) who aspires to become a journalist. She then decides to look deep into the struggles that black maids go through. Her quest starts with two black maids named Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), who is very compassionate yet bitter and a more outspoken maid named Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), then leads to a confrontation with a ruthless high society woman named Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard).

              What I Liked About It:
             The thing that I liked the most, and is definitely the highlight of the film, is the acting. This film won plenty of acting ensemble awards and when watching the film, it's not hard to see why. Much like American Hustle, this is very much an actor's movie. I wouldn't say there is one particular standout in the cast because it is an ensemble piece and everybody just brings in their A-game. However, I'll acknowledge a fair few. Viola Davis really shines as Aibileen, a maid who worked for whites her whole life and while she is kind, she still has trouble finding her voice until she forms a relationship with Skeeter. Bryce Dallas Howard does such an amazing job at playing such a stone-cold ice queen who is like a walking oleander, whereas she is beautiful to look at but everything and everyone she comes near turns toxic. Another actress who really shines is Jessica Chastain who plays Minny's much kinder owner, Celia Foote, who, despite her high status, is an outcast in her town. Chastain brilliantly plays a character who seems very naïve yet has a bit of a fire in her that is just burning to come out. Everyone else is just fantastic.

            What I Didn't Like About It:
           While the acting is the highest point in this film, I definitely had some problems with the film. Although I actually had one in particular. That problem is that the film is a bit too sugarcoated. It is meant to show the hardships that blacks went through back then, but hardly ever shows them. I'm guessing the makers of the film wanted stuff to be implied rather than shown. But whenever I see a film that deals with strong subject matter, I always like it when the makers mostly show and don't tell. It doesn't mean I actually want to see scenes of black women suffering, it just means I think the film would've been a bit better if they showed the audience the struggles these women went through to make the audience open their eyes. That's why I thought two other films that deal with similar subject matter: The Butler and 12 Years A Slave, were better because they really have the audience opening their eyes more and going "Wow, people suck!" by just straight up showing them the horrors that blacks went through and possibly giving them a new perspective on how to treat blacks better.

           Overall, The Help is a pretty modest film that still has outstanding acting from the cast. It is a bit too sugarcoated in my opinion, but it is still a solid film nevertheless. I would recommend this if you are a history buff and want to see a film dealing with black history that is a lighter alternative to a harsher film like 12 Years A Slave.

Rating: 3.5/5