The Help ~ This is another flick that I saw on board the Disney Dream on my recent vacation. They gave a fairly large and beautiful old-fashioned style theater, and for this first run film, every seat was filled and there were folks standing and even sitting on the stairs even though they weren’t supposed to. There’s a reason I mention this that I’ll get to later.
The Help, based on the bestselling book by Kathryn Stockett, is a period piece set in early 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. Some of the hairstyles, wardrobes, sets and cars were probably filched from the set of “Mad Men” they look so authentic. The history is strong and accurate, which for me is important as I get irritated when the facts are wrong or timelines are mixed. My suspension of belief has a low tolerance for that sort of stuff. Don’t even get me started on Forrest Gump.
The film is an ensemble piece about a struggling young writer putting together a book of the experiences of black maids and their feelings about the white women whose children they were raising. Set in the hotbed of the civil rights movement, it explores and reveals a side that is rarely talked about in the history books, and shows that subtle racism is just as bad as overt racism. Well, it’s all bad, but back then, it was a matter if degrees.
The performances in all cases are amazing, and if this wasn’t a summer release, I’d say it’s an easy sweep for the Oscars, but unfortunately the noms are usually later in the year. Shame. Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard would all be major contenders to get statues. And although it’s a small part, Sissy Spacek steals the movie.
There were no seats empty in the theater, and a young African-American woman sat next to me with her family behind her – as they were split up by showing up late. I don’t know whether she was aware if the history of this film. I am always amazed when I see films like Apollo 13 and Titanic and hear younger folks express ignorance of the endings. This young woman was completely pulled into the movie and was struck by a full emotional spectrum. She laughed, cheered, clapped, but mostly cried, sniffed and sobbed. Yeah, it’s that powerful a film, and made that much more so because it happened.
Highly recommended, do not miss, The Help is easily one of the best movies of 2011.