The Help (Blu-ray)
I sometimes feel like Academy Award nominated films do not necessarily appeal to the masses. Some require a lot of thinking. Some require a lot of emotional commitment. Often times only critics and film students truly appreciate and even bother to watch these “buzzed about” movies at the actual theater. And they probably discuss the various plots and character development over coffee afterwards. Many of us wait until the winner is announced to decide if our brains are prepared or even willing to venture down the thinking path versus the mindless path before we make a decision to pay our $10 to be entertained.
With that said, it is my opinion that THE HELP has managed to simultaneously generate Oscar buzz while appealing to demographics across the board.
Based on the 2009 best selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, THE HELP is about three women who live in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. Recent Ole Miss graduate Skeeter (Emma Stone) has returned home to begin her writing career. While she’s been away for four years, all of her childhood friends have married, had kids and are running households of their own. Their spare time is filled with bridge club and Junior League meetings. Skeeter realizes life is quite different in Jackson when Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) installs an outdoor bathroom for her colored help Minny (Octavia Spencer). Aggravated at the treatment of the help, Skeeter seeks wisdom from Minny’s best friend Aibileen (Viola Davis) and together, the green writer compiles pages and pages of stories from the black maids.
Aibileen is the strong, reverent one who is telling her story on behalf of her son who was killed years ago. Minny is the quick tempered, sassy one who is telling her story because Hilly Holbrook fired her. Skeeter attracts the attention of a publishing company and the women are determined to get the truth out in a time that was extremely controversial for our country. Lines are drawn and never meant to be crossed. These three were holding hands and jumping across by giving a voice to the invisible, not knowing what the white women of Jackson, or their husbands, would do as a result.
THE HELP is so powerful because rarely is anything written by the point of view from these maids who practically raised children from the 60s while their own kids were farmed out to relatives back on their side of the tracks. Davis and Spencer were perfectly cast as two women with extremely different character traits working to fulfill the same goal. They were the perfect yin and yang and it was beautiful to see their strength and courage portrayed on the screen.
Emma Stone did a great job balancing determination to give these ladies a voice while respecting the process to go about reaching this goal. Naturally, the audience is shocked and appalled by Bryce Dallas Howard’s portrayal of Hilly Holbrook…exactly how we were meant to feel. The entire cast went above and beyond to make this film as authentic as possible. The chemistry was palpable.
But one thing that was endearing and heart wrenching at the same time was the relationships between the black maids and the young white children in their lives. Countless life lessons can be taken from these amazing women that touch on self esteem, confidence, determination and hard work. But the movie opens and closes with Aibileen drilling a certain mantra into her “Baby Girl’s” head: “You is good. You is smart. You is important.” Grammatical errors aside, I was overjoyed to see such a simple, sweet message spoken to a generation of young ladies who mostly flock to the silver screen to see a sparkling vampire fall in love with a girl who is willing to give up her humanity for love.
Don’t get me wrong…I’ve seen them all, I play along and I’m definitely team Jacob when it comes to debate. But here’s hoping that THE HELP challenged a few young minds (and maybe some older ones) to be bold and courageous for something in which they believe. That’s certainly something worth debating over.
Video: 1080p High Definition (1.85.1): THE HELP had an amazing set design. All the details to the ‘60s were interesting to see and catch as I watched. The setting was beautiful as well. And that includes the heat. I actually felt the hot summer of Jackson, Mississippi.
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: The audio quality was great. I loved the soundtrack.
The Making of the Help: From Friendship to Film (23:25): This was one of the best behind-the-scenes features I’ve ever watched. Tate Taylor (writer/director) was born in Jackson, Mississippi and was childhood friends of Kathryn Stockett. Tate was with Kathryn every step of the way with her book success and she wouldn’t let anyone direct the movie but him. She felt that you had to grow up and know what it was like in Jackson in the ‘60s to understand how the movie should be made. Both Kathryn and Tate had black maids who practically raised them. Tate’s maid, Carol Lee, is featured as one of the women who help Skeeter write her book. Kathryn wrote her book in the “voice” of her maid and that’s when the idea came to her…what had she been thinking all those years?
Another interesting fact is that Tate, Kathryn and Octavia Spencer were all good friends. Kathryn wrote the part of Minny with Octavia in mind. All of the homes that were used in the movie were actual homes of Tate and Kathryn’s childhood friends.
In Their Own Words: A Tribute To the Maids of Mississippi (11:51): Octavia Spender and Tate Taylor sit down with a roomful of maids from that time period and talk to them about how they inspired Kathryn’s book. Some brought their daughters to discuss the sensitive issue that black women were raising white kids and leaving them at home. Have your tissue ready. It’s extremely powerful.
Deleted scenes (9:36): I felt like all of these deleted scenes could have been left in the film. Again, I couldn’t get enough of the entire cast.
The Senator’s son comes to apologize to Skeeter for the bad first date, Skeeter was outcast from the Jr. League and Hilly confronts her, Minny is hiding from Johnny and almost gets caught, All the maids are worried that they will be in danger, Leroy beating up Minny.
“The Living Proof”: This was the Mary J. Blige video from an original song she wrote for the movie.