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OSCARS REVIEW: "The Help" Has What It Takes To Win

Tallie Johnson |
February 13, 2012 | 3:24 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

The voices of the often overlooked are the focal point of the story in “The Help.”

The voices are maids in Jackson, Miss. during the Civil Rights era.

Emma Stone plays Skeeter Phelan, a young enthusiastic journalist, who decided to write a book based on the perceptive of black maids in her area. 

The maids are at first reluctant to share their personal hardships and struggles with Skeeter. Viola Davis plays maid Aibileen Clark, a strong caring character who struggles with the death of her son. Octavia Spencer plays maid Minny Jackson, an enduring, witty and strong willed character who speaks her mind. Together along with Skeeter diligently taking notes, the maids reveal the intricacies of their daily life, along with the their pain and experiences.

Skeeter struggles with her own awkwardness in dating and seeking a career. She represents a stark difference from her peers, who are essentially all housewives. Skeeter struggles to see eye-to-eye with her mother who is a traditional southern woman and wants to see her daughter get married. Allison Janney plays Skeeter’s mother. Janney gives a fine performance as a mother who caves to the conformity and pressure of fitting in with other women.

The story balances the difference women the maids work for. Hilly Holbrook (Byrce Dallas Howard) is the wealthy white woman who doesn’t event want Minny to use her bathroom out of fear that black people career diseases. Hilly’s character is brilliantly portrayed to be overtly racist and easy to dislike. This is balanced with Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) who is married to a wealthy man, but doesn’t fit in with the other white woman. Her character is humorous and finds a match with Minny.

The film manages to deal with racial themes without being overtly preachy or too intense. Yet in  a way it glosses over the reality of the time period by focusing more deeply on the relationships between the women.  Despite the social time period and context, the film also manages quite a few humorous moments thanks to the witty characters alongside the tearjerker moments.

Skeeter’s book wreaks havoc on the town as the white woman read exactly what their maids are thinking. Some of the women are petrified that people will be able to identity secrets that are reveled through the book.

The story is based on the best selling book of the same name by Kathryn Stockett, and certainly stands a good chance to win. 

It has all the elements for an Oscar win. The acting nominations for this film are well deserved. It’s a solid film, with good storytelling, amazing acting, and it is well directed.  It’s hard to dislike the film. It has a positive message, and as a film there are really no weak links. Yet there is a glossy Disney feel to the subject of race relations in the film. 

Best Picture Winner in 2005 “Crash” dealt with the complexities of race relations in America with true realism, truth and honesty.  While stylistically they are two different films, “Crash” has the realism “The Help” is missing.

“The Help” is good, great even but not the best.  Still, it has a solid track record with at past awards and critics that it cannot be counted out to come out the winner.

Reach reporter Tallie here.



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