Friday, 10 August 2012

Film review: The Help

I was recommended this film by a colleague who said it had made him cry! I had to find out what was so emotionally moving about this film as I love films that really get you to relate to the characters. I rented this film off Blockbuster but it is available from HMV,, and the usual film outlets online and offline.

It's quite a recent film as it came out just last year (2011). It's also quite a long film, so I watched it in parts as I don't often have the time to sit down and watch a three hour film! This didn't detract from the enjoyment of the film and I found myself easily picking up the storyline where I left off and really feeling the emotions of the characters.

It is an adaptation of the book by Kathryn Stockett, though shamefully I didn't read the book before seeing the film!

The director is Tate Taylor, who is also an actor. The leading actresses are Emma Stone who played Skeeter, who I hadn't seen before, but have recently seen in "Crazy, Stupid Love" which I will be reviewing shortly; Viola Davis who played Aibileen and has since been in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" which I have read the book of and will be soon watching the film of, and Octavia Spencer who plays Minny and has also appeared briefly in the Big Bang Theory!


This film is about the racial divide in North America in the 60s. The film is set in Mississippi and the storyline primarily follows the lives of white American journalist Skeeter and black servants Minny and Aibileen.

Skeeter comes fresh from college deciding she wants to write to make a difference somewhere. She sets about on the difficult task of interviewing black servants and gaining perspective of their lives and hardships to publish in a book and effect social change.

Her reason for wanting to do so is her appreciation for the black woman who brought her up as a lifelong family servant, and her outrage at finding that her mother fired the woman who raised her. Her mother is ill and she feels obliged to stay at home with her first and put everything else second. We learn that Skeeter has a distaste for dating idiots and is intensely career minded.

The plot explores the characters of the snooty southern ladies and the submissive servants who toil to keep their homes and families together, often bringing up their children.

There is an element of comedy in the film under the deep issues explored, as the snooty southern ladies finally get their come-uppance and Skeeter dates an idiot and shows him who's boss! Minny, the black servant, is a character with such attitude, she is very lovable.

Skeeter experiences hurdles along the way as she finds out how difficult it is to get servants to risk their jobs and livelihoods over speaking out. The dark times are captured in this unwillingness to divulge scandalous information on the parts of the servants, as they know full well the severity of the consequences and the extent of the wrongs in the eyes of the state.

--Personal opinions--

The main reason I enjoyed this film so much was because it both educated me about the history of civil rights in America and engaged me thoroughly with the characters. At the end of the film I wanted to meet the characters and this is how you can tell a good film from a bad film!!

I found the film went into a lot of depth with developing characters and explaining the storyline, which is what makes a good film for me.

From what I know of the history of black rights in the deep south, this film really captures what it was like to be in a life of servitude in this era.

I would describe the film as being a film you could watch without having to concentrate too much, as the lives of the characters are illustrated so convincingly, you don't need to know any background information about the time period. With it's smattering of comedy, it's a real emotional rollercoaster of a film, I laughed and cried at The Help!

I have read a few reviews suggesting how the film lacks historical accuracy and is therefore not the way 1960s America should be portrayed in the film, so for this reason shouldn't be considered a great film. I would say in response to this, and in defence of my four star rating for the film, that it is a light look at servitude in 60s America and a feel good, subtly educational film which can in turn provoke an interest in the history behind the story. The film does not need to be 100% accurate, though of course a little attention to historical detail is always a bonus. I may revise my conclusion on this with a second viewing but for now I will put it down to "poetic licence". For what it's worth, I really enjoyed the film, and wasn't sure what to expect when renting it, and the idea of cinema is to entertain!


As the film is recent, it won't be at the lowest price for DVDs yet. The lowest price I have discovered is £7 on, though you should browse the shops as well and there are probably second hand copies floating about on eBay for less.


Watch this film for a thoughtful take on the era just before social change in the deep south.

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