Movie review: “The Help”

Help


On Friday night, Partner and I saw “The Help.” My goodness, what a crowd at the theater! We sat in the second row, so that we were staring up vertically at the screen, and let me tell you, when you’re watching a movie about a skewed society, a skewed viewpoint is actually not a bad thing.

 

 

The movie is set in 1963 Mississippi, and things are not good. Like Oz, the place is run by snooty white women; some of them, like Glinda, are good and nice and well-meaning, and some, like the Wicked Witch (well, green skin is almost the same as white skin) are very mean indeed. Then you have the underclass, who (like Munchkins) work and slave, raise the children, cook the meals, and generally get kicked around and abused a lot.

 

 

It’s a traditional story in one sense: by the end of the movie, the good characters have done good things, and the bad characters have been (to some extent) discomfited. At least one “bad” character redeems herself; at least one “good” character turns out to be a jerk.

 

 

Also: it’s one of those Southern-gothic stories. The South is the American version of Transylvania: writers and moviemakers can make anything happen there.

 

 

But the performers make the story work. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, as two indefatigable maids – one dutiful, the other wry – are just amazing; their faces alone, as they react to the casual slurs thrown at them on an average day, are compelling. Emma Stone, as a well-meaning local girl who wants to be a journalist, and who finds a much bigger story than she’d bargained for, is fun to watch, and easy to sympathize with. Allison Janney as her mother is alternately painful and charming. Cicely Tyson has two wonderful scenes. Sissy Spacek, as the mother of the main villainess, is charmingly vague and suddenly sharp, and always a welcome guest. And one of my favorite gay character actors, Leslie Jordan, as the editor of the Jackson Journal, is funny as always – and I had no idea he could do a cartwheel!

 

 

For a moment, toward the end of the movie, it looks like Peace, Love, and Understanding are breaking out all over the place, and I was afraid for a moment that every single civil-rights problem was going to be solved by Christmas 1964. Then there’s one last scene (I won’t spoil it for you) showing that the problems will go on forever, and so will the people who struggle against them.

 

 

This film was executive-produced by Nate Berkus, and you know we gay folk like to look after our own.

 

 

So go see it. It will bring you a laugh and a tear.

 


 

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About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

One Response to Movie review: “The Help”

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Appalling, entertaining, touching and perhaps even a bit healing, The Help is an old-fashioned grand yarn of a film, the sort we rarely get these days. Good Review! Check out mine when you can!

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