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THE HELP, 2011
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THE HELP, 2011 MOVIETHE HELP, 2011
Movie Reviews

Director: Tate Taylor

Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Ahna O'Reilly, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Mike Vogel, Sissy Spacek, Jessica Chastain, Cicely Tyson

Review by Matthew Toffolo

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SYNOPSIS:

Jackson, Mississippi, 1962: aspiring writer Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Stone) returns home after college, where unexpected friendships with African-American maids Aibeleen Clark (Davis) and Minny Jackson (Spencer) result in a book that gives a previously unheard voice to a community's suffering.

REVIEW:

The Help is a good movie. It tells an important story and has an all female cast - two things needed more often in the Hollywood storytelling machine. So there is no possible way that I can’t recommend it. I hope this movie turns out to become the sleeper hit of 2011, because if it is then more films like this will be made.

The story of THE HELP is set in the early 1960s in Mississippi. It tells a story that seems like complete fantasy when looking at today’s world. If I saw this film as a child I wouldn’t of believed that African American maids could of been treated this way by rich white people. There is no way this could of happened I would of thought. I was what you called the reverse sheltered white kid. I assumed that all minorities were treated equally and we were all basically the same all throughout history because that’s what I saw growing up. When you don’t see racism growing up, you are a bit shocked when you finally do see it as an adult.

The great irony is that these maids were the ones who were actually raising the rich white people’s children. So they wouldn’t let black people use their toilet out of fear that they could give them “black” diseases, but they let them change their kids diapers and hug them when needed! Say what? How did this logic translate then? Were people in Mississippi and other areas in the south drinking stupid water out of the taps? Or were they just scared of change? Or course the later is true and this is a common psychological happening in human history.

I do have some issues with THE HELP. Actually, I have a lot of issues with it.

The biggest issue of the movie is that it’s too Disney. It’s not nearly as dark as it should be as they glossed over big topics of racism during that time that needed to be told. And I don’t get why they did this. Well, I do get it, but I don’t agree.

Disney got scared of the white people. Mainly, that they wouldn’t go see their film out of fear of being too black and too political. So they instead covered issues of how an attractive and bubbly newlywed deals with being a housewife, over the many white on black murders in the state at the time where zero justice was served, the JFK White House pursuit of equality in the south, and the racist laws in the state that are completely embarrassing to read in today’s world.

My feeling is that if you’re going to go there, then go all the way. Don’t try to tell half the story because what happens is that you don’t satisfy anybody. Of course a darker version of The Help would of driven away potential customers. But it would of also brought more people to see it. When you try to please all the masses, you end up pleasing no one at all. And that’s the danger of THE HELP. It’s just too bright and sunny when this is a story about hell, unfairness, anger, hatred and pure ignorance. And you can’t gloss over that no matter how hard you try.

Another issue is the performance of the main character played by Emma Stone. I must say that I love Emma Stone as she has a bright future ahead of her. She’s a good actress, but not a great one yet. And this role needed to be played by a great actress. Someone who can play insecurity and vulnerability while also being supremely confident in her writing abilities and moral compass all at the same time.

There are a couple of false moments played by Stone. The main one is the 3rd act moment with her mother when she realizes something very important. The look on her face needed to tell us more and she couldn’t pull it off. And I’m pretty sure the director did take after take until he just had to stop. But to be fair, only about 10 actresses in the world her age could of pulled off this moment.

Emma Stone is almost there. She’s almost a great actress. And doing a role like this will get her closer. Unfortunately, it effects that present movie, but makes her next movie that much better.

And come on Disney, be braver next time. You got to becoming a corporate monster like you are by being bold and brave in your youthful times. Don’t forget the actions that brought you to where you are now. Don’t be so chickenshit next time. Make the film that’s supposed to be made.

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THE HELP