archive: the help review

The world of Jackson, Mississippi in the sixties is a world filled with irony. Every white family has an African American maid. These women raise white children; they clothe them, change them, teach them and love them. White women brag about the cooking ability of their maids. These same white women were also raised by African Americans.

While their cooking ability is bragged about, they aren’t allowed to eat with the family. They can touch the children, but they aren’t allowed to use the same bathroom as their white employees as they carry “dangerous diseases”. They are paid less than minimum wage and are treated with disgust and disrespect by the same women who also hold fundraisers for starving African children.

This is the setting of The Help, a time not so long ago where segregation plagued much of the Southern US. The Help, directed by Tate Taylor is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett, a book which received 60 rejection letters before finally being published.

Appallingly honest, the truths represented in The Help portray a part of American history that most would prefer to forget. These women are responsible for providing the most important service that is the least valued. These women are responsible for shaping young minds. “You is smart, you is kind, you is important” were the words Aibileen Clark (portrayed by Viola Davis) instilled in all the children she raised.

It was through her beloved maid, Constantine (Cicely Tyson), that Skeeter (portrayed by Emma Stone), became the revolutionary woman she never knew she could be. Unlike the rest of her peers, instead of settling down with a husband and a child, Skeeter studies and graduates from the University of Mississippi, more affectionately known as Ole Miss, with an interest in writing and secures herself a job at the Jackson Journal writing a homemakers advice column.

Meanwhile, her friends, most notably Miss Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), continue on their quest to find her happiness with a man despite the fact that this is the furthest thing from Skeeter’s mind. Skeeter is told by a publisher to write about what disturbs her and after the mysterious circumstances surrounding why Constantine quit (the fact that she never wrote to Skeeter) and when Hilly wants to draft legislation to make ‘the help’ use a separate bathroom, Skeeter has her story.

Skeeter enlists the help of Aibileen and Minnie Jackson (Octavia Spencer) to hear their stories and to gain the trust of the other maids. These are the women who steal the show. Heart-warming and funny, The Help proves the point that English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton argued, that “the pen is mightier than the sword”, that words have the power to affect change.

The Help has generated Oscar buzz since trailers started circulating the Internet and television and rightly so. Many have called it one of the best films of the year and they are not wrong.

Monique gives it 4.5 stars!


One comment

  1. Emma · December 15, 2011

    I haven’t seen the film but I’m eager to read the book. I actually bought the book for my Bf’s mum, hope she likes it!

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