Sunday, 29 July 2012

Film Review: THE HELP (2011)

The Help - poster Director: Tate Taylor
Writers: Tate Taylor (screenplay), Kathryn Stockett (novel)
Running Time: 142 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 12

Genre: Drama
UK Release Date: 26th October 2011

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 29th July 2012.


This is one of those films that I wanted to see when it came out but somehow managed to miss. Fortunately it came up on TV this week and I had the opportunity to give it a viewing this morning. It had quite a lot of critical acclaim on release so I knew it would be good; the question was, how good? Well I’ll tell you about that after this very brief summary.

The Help - 2 When Skeeter Phelan returns home to Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960’s she gets herself a job at the local paper. She is employed to write a weekly column on housekeeping although she has higher ambitions. She wants to write a book about life as a maid, but from the maid’s point of view, something that was highly illegal in Mississippi at the time. Of course she can’t let the maids employers, many of them her friends, know about the book so she does it in secret. Initially, her main source of material is Aibileen Clark who works for Elizabeth Leefolt bringing up her children, cooking and cleaning. As time passes, Minny Jackson also relates some of her stories after a major falling out with her employer, Hilly Holbrook. She finds another position with the young Celia Foote who is a bit of a social outcast. More and more people come to Skeeter with their stories as events unfold and eventually it is finished… Apart from one story; Skeeter’s own… But what repercussions will there be for those involved? I’ll leave it there or the Spoiler Police will not like what I gotta say.

The Help - 4 Very well made with a nicely paced plot that always keeps the audience interested. Some great performances also add to the enjoyment; Emma Stone played the inquisitive graduate, Skeeter Phelan with great assurance. Viola Davis as the central character Aibileen Clark was really excellent, as was Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson. Bryce Dallas Howard was also first-rate as the main villain of the piece, Hilly Holbrook. I also thought that Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote did an excellent job. Also worthy of note were; Ahna O'Reilly as Elizabeth Leefolt, Allison Janney as Skeeter’s mother, Charlotte, Sissy Spacek as Missus Walters and Chris Lowell as the obligatory love-interest, Stuart Whitworth.

The Help - 3 A film that has a real feel-good factor, it very much concentrates its focus on things from the perspective of the women, on both sides of the story, but in particular the maids. I found there were some very touching moments along with quite a lot of humour. It’s set at a time and place where a lot of things were changing very rapidly, particularly in the aspect of race relations and you can see a lot of ignorance and bigotry. I should point out that not all the employers are bad; there are one or two stories that relate how the maids were cared for very well. Over all, I found this film quite uplifting; one I’d happily watch again at some point.

SteelMonster’s verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

My Score 8.7/10

IMDb Score: 8.1/10 (based on 98,862 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: 62/100: (Based on 41 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

THE HELP Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 76/100 (based on 197 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 90/100 ‘Liked It’ (based on 67,805 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

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[first lines]
Aibileen Clark: I was born 1911, Chicksaw County, Piedmont Plantation.
Woman: And did you know as a girl growing up that one day you'd be a maid?
Aibileen Clark: Yes ma'am, I did.
Woman: And you knew that because...
Aibileen Clark: My mama was a maid. My grandmama was a house slave.
Woman: [whispering as she writes down] "house slave..." Did you ever dream of being something else?
Aibileen Clark: [nods yes]
Woman: What does it feel like to raise a white child when your own child's at home being looked after by somebody else?

Aibileen Clark: You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

Stuart Whitworth: I've never met a woman that says exactly what she's thinking.
Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan: Well, I got plenty to say.

The Help - 7 Hilly Holbrook: They carry different diseases than we do. That's why I've drafted the Home Health Sanitation Initiative.
Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan: The what?
Hilly Holbrook: A disease-preventative bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the coloured help. It's been endorsed by the White Citizen's Council.
Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan: Maybe we should just build you a bathroom outside, Hilly.

Charlotte Phelan: Love and hate are two horns on the same goat, Eugenia. And you need a goat.

[last lines]
Aibileen Clark: In just ten minutes, the only life I knew was done.
Mae Mobley: [calling after her through the window] A-a-a-aibee!
Aibileen Clark: God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free. And I got to thinking about all the people I know. And the things I seen and done. My boy Trelaw always said we gonna have a writer in the family one day. I guess it's gonna be me.

The Help - 1 LINKS:
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site:

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