August 13, 2011
Director: Tate Taylor
Writer: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney
After graduating from college, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Stone) comes to a realization about the dichotomy between the intrinsic value of "the help" to society in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi and the way that these women are treated, and sets out to tell their story, public acceptance be damned.
The Help thrives on being a film populated by stellar actresses, each giving just as great a performance as the last, despite the occasional slight lapse in their Southern accents. Above all others, though, Viola Davis really knocks it out of the park. Unfortunately, Octavia Spencer's character exists almost wholly as a foil to Davis's, and ends up being little more than a stereotypical "sassy black woman," leaving Davis to carry the weight. In addition, the film has the issue of trying to shift protagonists between Stone and Davis's characters, and it interrupts the flow of the film a bit. While it does get into the dangerous territory of "white person helping poor unfortunate miniorities to better themselves" that films like Blind Side soak in, it's still a heartwarming, impassioned tale of toil against overwhelming odds. A-