There are some films that leave me wishing I had stayed home and organized my medicine cabinet, because that would have had more of a plot to it than the movie (Green Lantern, anyone?). And then there are films that fill your heart and mind with such beauty and thankfulness that you couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend two hours.
“The Help” belongs in that latter category. A very good friend and I went to a matinee showing of this movie earlier today, and both of us walked out of the dark theatre without much to say, although my friend Katie said it perfectly: “That’s the best movie I’ve seen in ages.”
Based on the book by Kathryn Stockett, “The Help” is a story of courage, trust, gumption and friendship. The story is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s and focuses on Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, a young girl who’s just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss and lands a job at the local paper writing a household cleaning column. Determined to do more than just write about how to get coffee stains out of the carpet, she decides to try to write about something with a bit more depth – the black women who are the uncredited backbones of affluent, white Southern households; the black women who raised white people’s children, cooked their dinners, ironed their clothes and basically did everything for them except play bridge (the white women managed to do that on their own just fine). When Skeeter convinces her best friend’s housekeeper Aibileen to open up to her, they start on a journey together that neither could have foreseen.
The acting in this movie is superb. Emma Stone plays Skeeter with just the right amount of brazenness and heart. Bryce Dallas Howard plays the selfish, small-minded social climber whom you love to hate (and who gets her just desserts…you’ll see what I mean if you watch the movie). Viola Davis is simply stunning in her portrayal of the woman who raised 17 children, only one of them being her own.
The characters are three-dimensional and vivid. You love some of them, you hate some of them and you feel sorry for some of them. The story of racial struggles and injustice is humorous and heart-breaking all at once. It leaves you wanting to forge ahead and make a difference in the world. Even if it’s just being nice to everyone you meet and not taking anything for granted.
And on a more superficial note, I also have to mention I’m simply in love with every single outfit Emma Stone wears in this movie. I want her entire wardrobe.