The Help (2011)
Directed by Tate Taylor
The most uplifting film of the year, director Tate Taylor’s The Help is Driving Miss Daisy meets The Secret Life of Bees. Relying on illustrative story-telling and sensational acting, this portrait of the American South is based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett.
Set in Jackson, Mississippi at the dawn of the American civil rights movement, The Help follows the lives of two black housekeepers, both trying to uncover the realities of their work. When Skeeter (Emma Stone), a young, white, Southern belle, realizes her desegregationist convictions, she enters the lives of these women and takes to the pen to write an occupational exposé titled The Help.
Viola Davis deserves an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. So do Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, and Sissy Spacek. All the Academy has to do is find one more viable candidate and they have their field. The women are brilliant, acting with captivating emotion and sensational charm. Chastain, who is looking at possible nominations for two other 2011 movies, Take Shelter and The Tree of Life, shines as the sympathetic Celia for whom Spencer’s eccentric Minny works. An emotionally-driven Davis plays Aibileen Clark, the other “help” that the story is all about. Spacek, who has not gotten the same attention for her role as the senile mother in the home in which Aibileen works, shows impressive wit and dedication to character.
The incomparable Emma Stone has incredible grace and wonderful diction and dialect (though she calls Scottsdale, Arizona home) as Skeeter, and her emotional range—from thoughtfully comedic to achingly tear-jerking—took me from laughter to empathy in a matter of moments. Even Allison Janney, who plays Skeeter’s mother Charlotte, has great emotion and a wonderful, though previously utilized, Southern accent to go along with her antebellum style.
Along with spot-on costumes, set design, and hair and make-up, the plot plays wonderfully off of the amazing cast, helping The Help to a sure Best Picture nomination.