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The Help (2011) Movie Review




The Help is a 2011 period drama film based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett. The film, directed by Tate Taylor, features an ensemble cast of Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney and Sissy Spacek. The film tells the story of a young white woman, Skeeter Phelan (Stone), who decides to write a book about the experiences of the black maids who work for the white families in Jackson, Mississippi, during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.


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The film was a critical and commercial success, receiving positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Davis, and Best Supporting Actress for both Chastain and Spencer, with Spencer winning the award. The film also won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.


Plot Summary




The film begins with Aibileen Clark (Davis), a black maid who works for the Leefolt family, narrating her life and the lives of her fellow maids. She reveals that she has raised 17 white children in her career, but has recently lost her own son in an accident. She also introduces her friend Minny Jackson (Spencer), another maid who has a reputation for being outspoken and sassy. Minny works for Hilly Holbrook (Howard), the leader of the local Junior League and a racist socialite who enforces strict rules for the maids, such as requiring them to use separate bathrooms from the whites.


Meanwhile, Skeeter Phelan returns to her hometown after graduating from college with a degree in journalism. She is eager to pursue a career as a writer, but faces pressure from her mother Charlotte (Janney) to find a husband and settle down. Skeeter is also disappointed to learn that her childhood maid and surrogate mother, Constantine (Cicely Tyson), has left their family for unknown reasons. Skeeter gets a job at the local newspaper as a columnist writing about domestic tips. She seeks advice from Aibileen, who works for her friend Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O'Reilly). Skeeter notices the inequality and injustice that the maids face every day, and decides to write a book from their perspective, exposing the truth about their lives.


Skeeter approaches Aibileen and asks her to share her stories for the book. Aibileen is initially reluctant, fearing the consequences of speaking out against the whites. However, she eventually agrees, hoping that her voice will make a difference. Skeeter also convinces Minny to join them, after Minny is fired by Hilly for using her bathroom during a storm. Minny finds a new job working for Celia Foote (Chastain), a sweet but naive woman who is shunned by Hilly and the other society ladies for being too low-class and married to Hilly's ex-boyfriend Johnny (Mike Vogel). Celia treats Minny with respect and kindness, and they become friends.


As Skeeter collects more stories from Aibileen, Minny and other maids, she faces challenges from her editor at Harper & Row in New York, who urges her to finish the book before the end of the year. She also faces opposition from her boyfriend Stuart Whitworth (Chris Lowell), a politician's son who does not support her project. Skeeter's friendship with Hilly and Elizabeth also deteriorates as they become suspicious of her activities. Hilly tries to sabotage Skeeter's reputation by spreading rumors about her being a lesbian and having an affair with a black man.


The book is finally completed and published anonymously under the title "The Help". It becomes a bestseller and causes a sensation in Jackson and across the country. The maids recognize themselves and their stories in the book, while the white families are shocked and outraged by the revelations. Hilly realizes that one of the stories in the book is about Minny's act of revenge against her: Minny baked a chocolate pie with her own feces and fed it to Hilly. Hilly confronts Skeeter and threatens to sue her, but Skeeter stands up to her and reveals that she has evidence of Hilly's involvement in a scandalous incident involving her husband.


The film ends with Aibileen being fired by Elizabeth after Hilly pressures her to do so. Aibileen walks away with dignity, telling Elizabeth's daughter Mae Mobley, whom she has raised and loved, that she is smart, kind and important. Aibileen also tells Hilly that she is a godless woman and that no one likes her. Aibileen meets with Skeeter and Minny, who tell her that they are proud of her and the book. Skeeter decides to move to New York to pursue her career, while Minny decides to stay with Celia, who is pregnant with her first child. Aibileen reflects on her life and the changes that the book has brought, and says that she has finally found her voice.


Cast





  • Emma Stone as Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a young white woman who aspires to be a writer and writes the book "The Help".



  • Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, a black maid who works for the Leefolt family and becomes Skeeter's main source for the book.



  • Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly Holbrook, a racist and manipulative socialite who leads the Junior League and antagonizes the maids and Skeeter.



  • Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, a black maid who works for Celia Foote and is Aibileen's best friend. She is known for her sassiness and cooking skills.



  • Jessica Chastain as Celia Rae Foote, a kind-hearted but ostracized woman who hires Minny as her maid and becomes her friend.



  • Allison Janney as Charlotte Phelan, Skeeter's mother who suffers from cancer and urges her to find a husband.



  • Sissy Spacek as Missus Walters, Hilly's mother who suffers from dementia and dislikes her daughter's behavior.



  • Chris Lowell as Stuart Whitworth, Skeeter's boyfriend who is a politician's son.



  • Cicely Tyson as Constantine Jefferson, Skeeter's childhood maid and surrogate mother who mysteriously left their family.



  • Mike Vogel as Johnny Foote, Celia's husband who is Hilly's ex-boyfriend.



  • Aunjanue Ellis as Yule Mae Davis, a black maid who works for Hilly's husband and is arrested for stealing a ring.



  • David Oyelowo as Preacher Green, a black preacher who leads the civil rights movement in Jackson.




Reception




The Help received mostly positive reviews from critics and audiences. The film has an approval rating of 76% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 234 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Though it fails to fully engage with its racial themes, The Help rises on the strength of its cast -- particularly Viola Davis, whose performance is powerful enough to carry the film on its own." On Metacritic , the film has a weighted average score of 62 out of 100 based on 41 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".


The film was also a box office success, grossing $216.6 million worldwide against a budget of $25 million. The film was the most profitable film produced by DreamWorks Pictures in 2011. The film was also praised for its portrayal of female characters and relationships, and for its performances by the cast, especially Davis, Spencer and Chastain. The film won several awards and nominations, including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Spencer, a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for Spencer, a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Spencer, a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture , and a Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Acting Ensemble .


Criticism




The film also received some criticism for its depiction of race and history. Some critics argued that the film had a white savior narrative , in which Skeeter is portrayed as the hero who liberates the black maids from their oppression. Some critics also accused the film of glossing over the harsh realities of racism and violence that black people faced in the South during the 1960s. Some critics also pointed out that the film ignored the role of black activists and leaders in the civil rights movement , and focused on the white perspective instead.


```html k, said that he wanted to make a film that was faithful to the book and the author's vision. He also said that he wanted to show the complexity and diversity of the characters, and not reduce them to stereotypes. He said that he consulted with several black women who lived in Mississippi during the 1960s, and incorporated their feedback into the film. Author Kathryn Stockett said that she wrote the book from her own perspective as a white woman who grew up in Jackson, and that she did not intend to speak for the black community. She also said that she wanted to tell a story about the relationships between women, and how they can overcome their differences and support each other. Actress Viola Davis said that she accepted the role of Aibileen because she wanted to portray a character who was strong, dignified and human, despite the limitations of her situation. She also said that she wanted to honor the real-life maids who inspired the film, and that she hoped that the film would spark a dialogue about race and history.


Conclusion




The Help is a film that explores the themes of race, gender, class and friendship in the context of the 1960s South. The film is based on a bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, and features a stellar cast of actors who deliver powerful performances. The film received mostly positive reviews from critics and audiences, and won several awards and nominations. The film also faced some critici


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