Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12-26-11: Oh the stories they tell.

THE HELP (2011) (PG-13) 146 mins. ****1/2 D: Tate Taylor. Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek.

During the 1960s, an aspiring author in Mississippi decides she wants to write a piece about the life of African-American maid's and their opinions about the white families they work for. At first hesitant due to the grave danger it may cause the women begin to open up about their moving, tragic, heartbreaking and sometimes funny experiences.

The direction and screenwriting notwithstanding the true stars of this film are the performances. Every character is rich, nuanced and real. No matter how much time they have on screen, everyone has an impact on the story. Emma Stone is very good as Skeeter. However the stars of this film are Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, who play Aibileen and Minny respectively. There performances really convey the sacrifice, the pride and dignity of these women that goes unrecognized because they are deemed lower-class. While many characters can come off as caricatures they truly capture the period and the feelings of the time. Bryce Dallas Howard is fantastic as a woman who is so blinded by her righteousness that she doesn't even recognize how racist she truly is. She pretty much serves as the villain of the piece and you really do grow to hate her.

Tate Taylor directs and adapted the best selling novel. As a southerner he really captures the look and feel of the time, there's a vibe here that only someone from the region could capture. He assembled a fantastic cast with great support from Janney, Cicely Tyson and Spacek.

It's a great look at a sad period in US history, a reverent look at the people who never received the recognition they deserved and an inspiring tale of a group of women who stood up for what's right in a time where that could have had them killed.

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