Entertaining, endearing, and heartbreaking performances
One of the first films of August that had whispers of Oscar buzz is also one of the year's most memorably inspirational films about strong women. This year, women are taking over TV but with the exceptional performances from Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard and Emma Stone, it looks like movies are standing up and taking notice.
The Help is not about how Emma Stone's Skeeter Phelan saving the black maid community in Jackson, Mississippi like some of the promos might accidentally suggest. And thank goodness because there would be no realism or any endearing qualities in a plot like that. No, this film is about Aibileen Clark and her friend Minny Jackson and how the two decide to break the racial boundaries and stereotypes by tlaking about their hardships when very little in their community would.
The film has heart- a lot of it- and it never gets tied down by too many cheesy love stories (there are a couple) or disconnected side plots. Each character is interesting and all of the actors play their roles very convincingly. Every critic has talked about the brilliant performance of the mighty Viola Davis and the intelligence of Emma Stone's portrayal and there is good reason. The two ladies have a great connection and they make up the core of the film. But I was also drawn to Octavia Spencer's unwaveringly strong performance as Minny Jackson, the maid who's tired of being treated less than when it's obvious to her that she's better than the people she works for. Then there's Bryce Dallas Howard who gives the audience an unapologetically villainous to root against. For me, the light of the whole film came from Jessica Chastain's portrayal of the blond, slightly dim yet completely endearing Celia.
I am not a fan of chick flicks. I am not a fan of sappy films. In fact, I cringe while watching films like Steel Magnolias. But this film is not just for women and it's definietly better than it may sound on paper. Sure, there are definitely some cliche moments- Emma Stone's Skeeter has a love story that ends badly- and the film definitely doesn't play up the racial tension of the era as much as it probably should. But it's a smart look into the relationship between two groups of women who don't understand each other at all.