Brian’s Review – “The Help”

In 1960s Jackson, Miss., aspiring writer Eugenia Phelan crosses taboo racial lines by conversing with Aibileen Clark about her life as a housekeeper, and their ensuing friendship upsets the fragile dynamic between the haves and the have-nots. When other long-silent black servants begin opening up to Eugenia, the disapproving conservative Southern town soon gets swept up in the turbulence of changing times.

Brian – 4 out of 10

If ever there was a major motion picture that felt like a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, this is it. We have the usual cookie cutter good guys and bad guys, the sweeping emotional undercurrent, and the over the top music swells underneath “big speech” moments that are almost “time to cry” signs that light up. I was hoping that wasn’t going to be the case since the story setting had all the possibility in the world of giving us a better glimpse into the American south during the heyday of the civil rights movement. Also, this is the first I can remember that is told primarily from a black feminine perspective. Every, and I mean every, actor is terrific in this film. The casting is spot on and I have to point out Bryce Dallas Howard as being particularly effective in the antagonist role. She’s of course the one who goes to great lengths to keep segregation in place and even build her black maid her own bathroom off the back of the house where she won’t “infect” the rest of the house with her “black diseases.” It is of course to set up immediate and hate towards her character and foster sympathy for black protagonists who are forced to deal with racial inequality and its ugliness.

Now, I completely understand that in a world of right and wrong, that this is an awful and certainly dark time in the history of this country. But, I would have loved to have seen a more enigmatic approach to the material. It is so good guys vs bad guys and right vs wrong that we’re rarely ever given a chance to see any other perspective. I would have loved to have seen more of the genesis of the feelings of the hateful whites. Where did it start? Were their parents hateful and fearful of minorities? Did they make up their mind for themselves? Was it peer pressure amongst friends or colleagues? If you’re going to have a films that’s 2 ½ hours, there’s no reason more of this can’t be explored when you’ve dedicated an enormous chunk to obvious melodrama. So, I can’t recommend “The Help” but I can appreciate the acting and obvious good feelings that went into the project.

2 responses to “Brian’s Review – “The Help”

  1. 4/10 Come on Brian!
    The melodrama was needed to make the movie less sombre than it is. For me the villains and saints weren’t that clear cut. Bruce was the clear villain and clown of the piece. but i think for others, their reasons varied. most obvious was the peer pressure, for some it was just how things were always done, for some they just saw right through the skin colors and saw people. These perspectives are not much different from today’s world.

  2. Ginger,

    I melodrama really necesarry to “soften the blow?” I don’t think adults who see the film needed a watered down version of history. And, yes, I stand by my good guys vs bad guys statement. It wasn’t just Bryce Dallas Howard. What about her husband? Her tea buddies? It’s as if they all shared the same brain. I was waiting for the film to answer serious questions and it really never even brought them up. Instead, it ends with a young child (always the most manipulative tool in a poor director’s arsenal) and has them pounding on the window and yelling for the black maid to come back. If that isn’t an easy way out, I don’t know what is.

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