Thursday, August 25, 2011

Movie Review: The Help (2011)

Originally posted on Rotten Tomatoes (

Someone get Viola Davis an Academy Award; it's long overdue. She created the most unforgettable scene in Doubt, a movie that also featured powerhouses Meryl Street and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Ms. Davis is the core of this movie, which celebrates the moral and emotional strength of people like her character, Aibileen. Octavia Spencer, as Minny, provides the comic counterbalance, her large, expressive eyes shooting sass before she ever opens her mouth. And speaking of giant eyes, Emma Stone and Allison Janney are brilliant as the aspiring writer who gives voice to the town's maids, and her acerbic yet caring mother. Bryce Dallas Howard is an effective antagonist, clueless and self-righteous; and Jessica Chastain is the very image (and high-pitched voice) of a blonde bombshell.

The other elements of the movie work well. The soundtrack is great, except for the cheesy ending song. The cinematography is solid and otherwise unremarkable. The make-up, costumes, and sets are pitch-perfect. Overall, an excellent production, and I hear it's a fairly faithful adaptation of the book. If that's true, then it was a damn good book. There are many hilarious one-liners (usually uttered by Minny or the luminous Sissy Spacek), and the heartbreaking scenes have equal or more impact, such as whenever Aibileen teaches her charge a mantra -- "I is kind, I is smart, I is important" -- or when Aibileen and Minny express their fears to each other after a race crime incident. The screenplay veered towards manipulative near the end of the film, but it can be overlooked for the movies' excellent delivery of its main message of courage and friendship. Thumbs up!

BONUS! Link to Bryce Dallas Howard's Chelsea Lately interview about sweating and gaining weight and eating tons of pie for the film: You KNOW you wanna watch!