Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Help on DVD

I waited forever for The Help to come out on DVD and then come through Netflix. I kept hearing great things about it, and it was so highly in demand on Netflix that I waited for months with it at the top of my list. Finally, finally, it came, and it exceeded expectations and was definitely worth the wait (though I could have picked up a copy much sooner at my local DVD rental store, but it's not like I'm bored at home with two kids and I do pay for Netflix, so I waited).

I am probably the last of you all to see it, but just in case I'm not, get down to your rental store and pick this one up! It definitely deserved the Oscar nods and wins, and it's highly entertaining, to boot! (Those don't always go hand in hand.)

Being a story about a small Mississippi neighborhood in the Civil Rights era, this movie (based on a fictional book, by Kathryn Stockett) is a little piece of history, though this particular story itself is fabricated. I'm not typically into historical pieces. But it's the characters (I'm always about character!) that make this story, and it's the actors who make this movie!

The girls in Jackson, Mississippi, are raised by black maids, and when they are old enough, they become wives and mothers of their own, their highest ambitions to be the head of that society or this or to have the best-kept lawns. You know those old pictures from the 50's and 60's, advertising cleaning products, with super happy women in bobbed hair? The white women in this movie are just like that. That or The Stepford Wives.

But one young woman in Jackson sees a different future for herself. Returning from four years of college to find all her old friends married and having babies, Skeeter doesn't fit in. She wants to be a writer and gladly takes a position at the newspaper, writing the cleaning column. Since she herself knows nothing about cleaning, she goes to one of her friends' maids, a black woman named Aibileen (played by Viola Davis). But when Skeeter sees the way her friends speak condescendingly about their maids and how they segregate them by building separate bathrooms for them, she realizes there might be a story there to write. The only problem is that writing anything that points out the mistreatment of blacks is illegal in Mississippi, and the maids are afraid to talk.

But given courage by the start of the Civil Rights movement and just plain tired of the ill treatment, the maids do begin to talk, sharing both the good and the ugly, sharing about their love for the little girls they raise only to have those little girls trample them down when they are grown up. And you will love how they ensure their safety when the book Skeeter and Aibileen write is finally done and published and all those white women are reading their own appalling histories!

Viola Davis (Oscar nominee) and Octavia Spencer (Best Supporting Actress winner) are amazing in their roles as oppressed maids but fierce, determined, loving individuals. Emma Stone plays a loveable Skeeter, and other actresses such as Bryce Dallas Howard (the villainous Hilly!), Allison Janney (Skeeter's mother), and Jessica Chastain (Celia Foote, a wealthy white woman ostracized by her own, who becomes close friends with Octavia's character, Minny. I loved Celia!) have memorable roles. It's a cast of strong women. The men almost don't factor into the story.

The Help is sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-wrenching, but altogether, it's a beautiful look at the heart of a person, what makes us human despite wealth or skin color.

It's a long movie at two hours and twenty-six minutes, but it doesn't feel like it. It's rated PG-13 for thematic material only. Besides the obvious one, the mistreatment of blacks, there is a scene where a woman is bleeding all over the floor during a miscarriage.

This is a movie to see, for sure, maybe even to own. I haven't read the book (shame, I know), but I didn't feel like the movie lacked anything. I was very pleased. I can only imagine the book provides an even richer experience.

Five stars. Really.


  1. You're not the last one. I haven't seen it. Would men enjoy this movie?

    1. yes guy's would enjoy the movie too............ its a family movie.

    2. It's definitely a movie about women, but I don't see why men wouldn't enjoy it. Check it out, and then you tell me!


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