Rating: Chocolate Cake
There are male viewers who will enjoy The Help, but Mississippi native Tate Taylor aims his adaptation squarely at the female readers who made Kathryn Stockett’s novel a bestseller. If the multi-character narrative revolves around race relations in the Kennedy-era South, the perspective belongs to the women. Veteran maid Aibileen (Doubt‘s Viola Davis in an Oscar-worthy performance) provides the heartfelt narration that brackets the story. A widow devastated by the death of her son, she takes pride in the 17 children she has helped to raise, but she’s hardly fulfilled. That changes when Skeeter (Easy A‘s Emma Stone) returns home after college. Unlike her peers, Skeeter wants to work, so she gets a job as a newspaper columnist. But she really longs to write about Jackson’s domestics, so she meets with Aibileen in secret–after much cajoling and the promise of anonymity. When Aibileen’s smart-mouthed friend Minny (breakout star Octavia Spencer) breaches her uptight employer’s protocol, Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) gives her the boot, and she ends up in the employ of local outcast Celia (Jessica Chastain, hilarious and heartbreaking), who can’t catch a break due to her dirt-poor origins. After the murder of Medgar Evers, even more maids, Minny among them, bring their stories to Skeeter, leading to a book that scandalizes the town–in a good way.
I knew that going into the movie version, I was going to be a tough critic. When I first saw the trailer, I was really upset. It seemed to…cutesy. The book handles such important issues that I was worried that Hollywood would simply gloss over them.
After experiencing the film, I think I reacted prematurely. The film is cutesy. That does not necessarily make it a bad choice. Instead, the playful music and bright colors play upon the great juxtaposition of the plot. One world is filled with laughter and light while the other world is more gritty and harsh.
Do I think the movie is better than the book? Probably not, but I do see why it is nominated for Best Picture. It deals with pressing societal problems while remaining enjoyable to watch. The acting was hysterical and I am an even bigger fan of Minnie’s than I was before (sometime soon I am going to attempt to make a Terrible Awful, sans one key ingredient…). You do learn a valuable lesson here. Be nice to the people you work with or who work for you. You never know exactly what might show up on your dinner table, in your purse, or on your front lawn 😉
All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on! It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night. I’ve already seen Moneyball and Hugo. Now on to the rest! Try these while you are waiting. You won’t regret it…
Read on for the recipe…