During the 1960s civil rights movements, an aspiring author decides to write a book detailing the experiences of African-American maids in Jackson, Mississippi.Aibileen Clarke (Viola Davis) has helped raise sixteen children and is in the process of raising her seventeenth. All her life, Aibileen has worked for white families, raising their children and keeping their houses respectable. When Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) asks for her help with writing her newly acquired cleaning column, then pair strike up something that resembles friendship, and one day, wannabe writer Skeeter asks what she’d think to helping her write a book based on the experiences of the help. At first, Aibileen retorts in horror at the thought, but eventually she comes round. Aibileen’s best friend, Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) soon joins the party with plenty of stories to tell about her old boss, Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard). The three get a handful of other maids together and a new sisterhood emerges, and when the book is eventually released, it takes hold of Jackson in a way that no-one ever thought it would.
Two or three years ago, I started watching The Help. My mum had read the book and when it came on the TV, she wanted to watch it. Well, it took until last week for me to watch the whole thing, and I massively regret that it took me that long. It is a truly magnificent film that handles some very heavy issues without losing its feel-good factor – it’s not everyday that you find films like this one.
The first thing that hits you with this film is the sheer number of powerhouse performances that it is packed with. Viola Davis was an absolute showstopper as Aibileen and won herself an Oscar for her troubles. There was a terrific amount of emotion in her performance yet it was all very light-hearted most of the time. Davis is a joy to watch and she is reason enough all on her own to see The Help.
Octavia Spencer as Minny was also tremendous. She did make me laugh with all her sass and the way she had zero tolerance for most of the behaviour of the people who paid her bills. The chemistry she had with Davis showed the friendship and camaraderie of all of the house maids, plus her scenes with Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote were also uplifting as they showed how things were changing only for the better during the heated civil rights movement. Like so many members of the cast, Spencer’s performance appeared effortless and, again, was very easing viewing.
The story is terrific and does make you wonder how something as well thought out as this could possibly be a work of pure fiction. The Help is only a story, and whilst there is a chance that something might have happened that resembled the events depicted in the film, as far as I am aware, Kathryn Stockett’s novel, from which the film is adapted, is not based on any real life events, which I think makes the storytelling all the more magnificent.
Overall, I highly rate The Help and would recommend you watch it. Not only is it a wonderful couple of hours worth of film, but it also gives a real insight into how things were as well. May I also suggest reading the book as well? It is a sensational read and really gives voice to the characters.