Written and Directed by Tate Taylor
Starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard and Octavia Spencer
Aibileen: What if you don't like what I got to say 'bout white people?
In the 1960's, America was in the throes of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. led a quarter million people in prayer at the March on Washington and progress seemed achievable. Meanwhile, in the South, black men and women were being beaten senseless, or worse yet killed, for any attempt to push the civil rights movement forward. It was most certainly not a good time for a black maid to sit down and recount what working for white people was really like. It would seem even more ludicrous to share these potentially damaging stories with an actual white woman. Regardless, this is what Aibileen (Viola Davis) does when Eugenia (Emma Stone) asks her, not because she's always done what white women have asked of her, but because it was time. The stories she tells are both heartbreaking and heart warming, revealing just how complex these relationships truly are. There is love between some of these women, of that there is no question. And yet there is also superiority and ownership and perhaps most importantly, there is tradition. This is what all these women know. Change is not easy; making change is even harder.
There is so much unrest in these situations but you would never know. The trick is to never let on, a perfect glow must shine on the surface at all times. Of course, it is all terribly ironic that these maids are the ones to polish these particular surfaces. That said, there is plenty of shine in THE HELP. Taylor’s lack of experience behind the camera shows when certain delicate moments feel a tad rushed, but that hardly matters when the entire cast is this delightful and endearing. While it is refreshing to see Stone play something other than sarcastic for a change, and naturally Davis anchors the picture with great weight, it is Bryce Dallas Howard as queen of the white ladies, Hilly Holbrook, and lesser know, Octavia Spencer, as the feistiest of maids, Minny, who truly give THE HELP the punch it requires to become as memorable and enjoyable as it is. Collectively, the entire cast, rounded out by touching performances from Sissy Spacek and Alison Janney, maintain an air of ease, which is even more so commendable considering how they all know somewhere in the back of their minds that everything they know is about to change forever. The best part is that you can also see that some of these women know this change is for the best.