The Help

Film, Drama
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The Help
Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in The Help
This is as brazen an Oscar-baiter as we’re likely to see this year: adapted from Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller about a group of black maids in early 1960s Mississippi publishing a collective memoir. I’m sold. Yes, it gets a bit sentimental. Yes, some ‘Ya-Ya Sisterhood’ friendship clichés creep in. Yes, it glosses history. But it’s also heartfelt, hilarious and the cast is a dream-team topped by Viola Davis. What’s more, it hinges on a gross-out scene that wouldn’t look out of place in a John Waters film.

Emma Stone plays a white college graduate, Skeeter, who persuades her best friend’s black maid, Aibileen (Davis), to write about working for white families. Nowhere is the vile hypocrisy of ‘separate but equal’ more apparent than in the maid-employer relationship. White employers won’t even touch their maids, yet these women are raising their kids, drying tears and kissing scraped knees. Davis deserves the nominations that are surely coming her way; she’s deeply moving as Aibileen, who has brought up 17 white children and whose own son died in an accident. Octavia Spencer (pictured, right) is hilarious as her best friend Minny – and there are good comic turns from Sissy Spacek and Jessica Chastain.

This is the same era as ‘Mad Men’, but Mississippi is a long way from New York. And Skeeter’s friends – the maids’ employers – make Betty Draper look like a radical feminist. The meanest of the mean girls is Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard, acidly amusing), who sacks a maid for using her toilet, prompting that revoltingly funny gag.

By: Cath Clarke


Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday October 28 2011
Duration: 146 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Tate Taylor
Cast: Emma Stone
Viola Davis
Octavia L. Spencer

Average User Rating

3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:5
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:0
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A rare film that was as enjoyable as the book. Brilliant acting by all, superb sets, and yes there was some broad brush characterisation and storytelling, but still it hit home truthfully about race bigotry and also class snobbery. The maid's relationships also made me cry, it was a very moving and powerful film. Great to see Cissy Spacek too acting wittily and brilliantly.

A rare film that was as enjoyable as the book. Brilliant acting by all, superb sets, and yes there was some broad brush characterisation and storytelling, but still it hit home truthfully about race bigotry and also class snobbery. The maid's relationships also made me cry, it was a very moving and powerful film. Great to see Cissy Spacek too acting wittily and brilliantly.

Mississippi, the same year that Kennedy is killed, is an abomination of racial hatred. Truth be told the Southern US States still hold a scary volume of racial tensions. The Help dwells on the petty everyday behavior of mistresses towards their maids. But it's these accumulated insults that grind away at the maids' dignity. The cast-iron law that maids cannot use the mansion house toilets, whatever the urgency, and must not be sassy. The practice that maids are passed onto to the next generation of daughters by their mothers, confers a job for life, but removes freedom of choice. These harsh iniquities are set within a glittering array of colonial mansions, bridge afternoons, chocolate pie and fabulous Cadillacs. A minor rebellion takes place amongst the maids fed by the newly graduated Skeeter Phelan, she secures a NY journalist's career launched on the back of the maids' everyday gossipy revelations about their nasty employers - a book is successfully published, "The Help" earning the contributers $40 each. This all ties up rather nicely as Skeeter gets her job and the maids' lose theirs. A Women's Institute's view of inhumanity from a kitchen range vista but still an enjoyable two hours.

I was led to believe it was a film based on a true story so was a little skeptical. At the end it told me it was from a novel and strangly didn't mind the slight contrivances. Clearly based on the dreadful treatment my fellow whites have meted out over the years. So, shame on us. But a very interesting way of telling the story. Highly enjoyable and moving at the same time and definite oscar worthy perforrmances all round. My only slight gripe is I found it difficult to catch all the dialogue. Go see it you won't be wasting your time.

Well, got my tear duct's troubled (and my tear duct's aren't usually troubled unless watching all time fave's) and not a second too long. Downside? 80's MISSISSIPPI BURNING deals with such behaviour with far more power and - what't he hell? EMMA STONE top billing? 2 better performances on display but, hey! now's not the time (wtf?) Anyway, great viewing, lovely vibe, not a second to long but....25 years too late perhaps? 7+/10

Simple message racismn is odious and not all white people are evil i have seldom been as moved as i was watching bthe help they should award oscars to the whole cast And Jessica is surely the new streep yes it pushed every button known and by the end newmans bloody piano scvore was grating but a great fil 4 stars

So let's see; it's getting 2 stars in audience reviews because it's about two hours and something long? Time for objectivity. I agree with the main review and have nothing to add; ignore the occasional clichés and schmaltizeness and you're left with a highly enjoyable film.

You'd be hard pressed to call this a bad film. All the right ingredients are there, and there's a hint of Oscar nominee movie about it: The acting's good, there are some funny moments, the story's realistic, but it's long - round about 2.5hrs - and including trailers you're likely to be there for around 3hrs. I'm glad I saw this film, but if I was to do so again I'd be more selective about my cinema, and definitely splash out on premium comfy seats.

I can’t remember a mainstream movie tackling a subject such as this. It’s a sad tale of servitude and exploitation that needs to be told. The maids Minny and Aibileen keep the story moving along nicely with a certain amount of good humour. Sometimes I found the story leaden and slow. Having just checked the running time, it’s 146mins/2h26m – long by any standard – and I think this probably explains the fidgeting and chatting of the rest of the audience in some places. Worth seeing, but not one I’d see for a second time or bother with on DVD.

This is one of the most disturbing films you will see all year. Disturbing in a make you angry rather than violent or scary way. Stone is excellent and the two lead maids will make you laugh and make you cry. It is their story and it shows just how bad things were in the South of the USA not so long ago. Chastain's character may not be visibly different to the Southern Belles yet she faces bigotry possibly even more disturbing than the maids. She may be rich and white but she is ostracised in possibly a more complete way than the maids. At least they get into the nice houses. As the "uber bitch" and Queen bee Dallas Howard is superb in a role that should win her many awards. However I expect to see her and Stone getting lots of nominations whilst Davis takes home the awards. All in all very good and thought provoking.

It’s a bit dismissive to say “If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the film�, but the trailer for this movie gives a helluva lot of the storyline away. Many trailers don’t. The casting’s faultless, with Viola Davis as one of the maids central to the story. Allison Janney is also very convincing. This film’s often amusing, at times disturbing, and occasionally sad. I felt it was protracted, and 20 minutes could have fallen on the cutting room floor. Enjoyable, but won’t win Oscars. Two stars.