The Help (2011) Review
During the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s aspiring writer Skeeter Phelan decides to write a book on the experiences of black women working as maids in Mississippi. In the process of doing this she risks losing all of her friends and family.
We are thrown into the deep south to see how the rich white people would treat the black women who worked for them as maids. This is something you know from the start is going to be a tough watch, because the treatment was mainly awful. This was the second time I have watched this film but I certainly found it even more powerful this time.
It has such an impressive cast with some truly incredible performances with plenty of different explains on how the young women viewed their maids and if the way their mother was in childhood impacted upon this.
Aibileen Clark is the first maid we really get to know as she has pretty much given up on any chance of her own life, as she mourns the loss of her son and tells her story throughout the film. How she was used to raising white babies and the love she gave them that their mothers failed to from the moment they were born. Her best friend Minny Jackson is another of the maids we learn a lot about and see how she managed to stand up for herself on quite a few occasions even with some awful consequences.
Skeeter shows that not all of the white women are the same when she vows to tell the story of “The Help” as she is attempting to make it as a writer. Her memories and love for her childhood maid really helps to drive this passion inside of her, even if her mother will not tell her the true story and what happened until the very end. But that is such an important aspect of it all as she really does want to help these women and give them a chance at another life.
Hilly Holbrook seems to have the run of the town and was Skeeter’s best friend when they were growing up. The only thing is that they happened to grow into young women with very different morals, Hilly not having any as a matter of fact. That counts towards her supposed friends and taking no prisoners in putting her own mother in a home! We then get Celia Foote who wants nothing more than to be accepted by these women and they keep pushing her away. She quickly becomes a favourite character because of her nature and not knowing the “correct” boundaries. The relationship formed between Celia and Minny really is such a good and inspiring one, showing that people really can be different and still get along and help each other in so many ways imaginable.
Parts of the film are inspiring and other parts are truly heartbreaking but all of that mixed in with some hilarious moments (the pie) makes a fantastic all round film with plenty to make you think and wonder how some people could be so cruel. It is pleasing that it also shows how well some of the families acted towards the maids and had them more as a family member as well.
The scariest thing about films like this is remembering that it was quite recent history. Isn’t it truly terrifying that bad morals and prejudice because of skin colour was not a very distant memory. That is why certain parts really break your heart! Certainly aided by the terrific performances from Viola Davis and an Oscar winning Octavia Spencer. Along with Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard.
I certainly think this is a film that needs to be given more than one viewing as I certainly appreciated it much more the second time round. Outstanding performances really are a joy to watch, especially when we see parts of history unfold.