Monday, September 5, 2011

The Help review- Is it wrong for a serious matter to be beautified?

Year: 2011
Director: Tate Taylor
Cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard
In My Own Words
                Ron Howard has got one talented daughter.
                Don’t get me wrong, I think all the actors in The Help are very talented women and I have a tremendous respect for each one of them, but Bryce Dallas Howard is one actor I have kept my eye on for the past few years.
                I know M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village has a lot of haters, but I didn’t mind it. It was one of those films people went into expecting a horror film with a lot of blood and guts, monsters and ghosts. So if you were expecting that and weren’t open to anything else, then yes, you would be disappointed. I liked it because it was actually a really good period piece film and it had a difference to it. And Ms Howard’s breakout performance as the blind, wise girl was extremely memorable.
                Since then, I have been waiting for another performance like that from her. Manderlay and As You Like It weren’t bad, as wasn’t The Loss of A Diamond Teardrop. However, I had been waiting for her to take on meatier role to show her true talents. In The Help, she does a great job at the sweet but evil Hilly Holbrook and I was so pleased to see her in this role. I still believe she has more in her than what we have seen though. Get her in the right role and she is one of the future Academy Award winners. How’s that for a big prediction?
                These are my own words and here is my review.
                If you want to see how perfect character development in films should be done, it is right here in The Help.
                The characters in The Help are so well constructed that you as the viewer truly feel as though you have made true friends and enemies in the space of 146 minutes. The acting is brilliant, as is the background of the south in the early 1960’s. The only drawback is that it can be a little bit too pretty at times for a film which has very serious undertones. It isn’t all doom and gloom though.
                Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) is an aspiring writer in 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi, a time when women weren’t supposed to want a career, just a husband. After approaching, the maid of one her friends, Aibileen (Viola Davis) for help with her column, she realises how much Jackson’s help has to tell. Skeeter undertakes the ambitious and dangerous task of writing a book from the point of the Help about the white families they work for. The further Skeeter explores, the more she sympathizes with the Help and realizes the evil that is all around her in Jackson.
                Kathryn Stockett’s novel is brought to life in brilliant fashion. The time period of the 1960’s in the south is very well represented. It is startling revelation to many that this time of unease and cruelty was not so long ago. There are some startling and very emotional moments throughout The Help, but also some comedic and triumphant moments. The script provides some memorable moments as well, particularly when the Help are telling their stories.
                Visually, the film is rather gorgeous. The town of Jackson is picturesque and the town’s milk bars make you long for that part of the 60’s with the music of the times blaring while you drank your milkshake. The classic Cadillacs are a novelty and the costumes for the women are stunning.
The only problem is that these things can make the film a little too pretty. The poster for The Help is bright yellow, which is a funny colour the make a poster of a film where the main subject is the cruelty towards the coloured Help, as yellow normally symbolises happiness. The lives of the white women in Jackson come across as enviable as visually everything looks so perfect and fun and pretty for the female audience. It turns The Help into a chick film based purely on the visuals. It does seem strange for Tate Taylor to make a film with content like this so pretty, but it does open it up to a larger audience of females of all ages by doing so. However, making the film so “pretty” does take away the seriousness of the full picture.
                The characters are wonderful. The best thing is you know exactly who all the characters are and where they have come from. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer give tremendous performances and they are so real. You know the background of each of the characters and you feel connected to the two of them and feel everything they go through.
                Emma Stone does well in a role that is unlike her comedic roots. She has one very touching moment when she finds out the truth about her old maid. Bryce Dallas Howard is great as the sweet and sour Hilly Holbrook. Her character is the type of person every fears, the one people feel they have to be friends with because otherwise they will tear you to shreds. Both her and Stone are completely natural in their roles.
                Jessica Chastain, who plays Celia Foote, does well at times, but her character does come across as a bit too silly and plays the dumb blonde stereotype a bit too over the top. The small roles in which the men of the film have portray the white men of Jackson to be just as much dumb blondes as what Chastain’s character is.
                Enjoyable and visually fun, but is it wrong for something of such a serious matter to be visually fun?


1 comment:

  1. Amazing review, I really enjoyed the film and I know they sugarcoated the dark themes which the book does go into more depth with but it was still really uplifting, funny and emotional.