Ed reviews 'The Help' 

click to enlarge Emma Stone as a budding journalist and Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis as two maids, the inspiration behind her book. Submitted photo.
  • Emma Stone as a budding journalist and Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis as two maids, the inspiration behind her book. Submitted photo.

3.5 stars


The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett's novel, is about what happens when a young white writer (Emma Stone) in early-'60s Mississippi sets out to make a book collecting the tales of the black maids who reared white children in her hometown.

It's painful watching human beings suffer, and the everyday racism here is appalling. The Help works as an exercise in empathy. I think it would have worked better had director Tate Taylor (Satterfield in Winter's Bone) drawn the bigoted white women with as much detail as he did the maids. The story is determined to present the blatant racism of the era while keeping the crowd happy with Hallmark moments and comical situations. Taylor's efforts to follow the template of the book seem strained at times.

Regardless of any misgivings over the presentation style, the film packs a punch, aided immeasurably by the performances of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer as maids Aibileen and Minnie, with strong support by Emma Stone as the writer. Davis makes you feel the pain, weariness and determination of her character, while Spencer offers fire, coupled with a strong sense of caution over the life-threatening dangers of the book project. As the budding journalist, Stone delivers another solid performance.

The Help manages to be horrifying and inspirational despite its heavy-handedness. I wish it had been as stark as Taylor's performance in Winter's Bone. I didn't buy the ending, which gives the audience a hug and a pat on the bottom to send us on our way. Too calculated. Too tidy for a situation that is anything but neat.


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What others are saying (8)

Memphis Flyer The Women The big-screen adaptation of The Help is an actress showcase and truth-telling surprise. by Chris Herrington 08/11/2011
Boise Weekly The Projector: Movies opening Friday, Aug. 12 Runaway brides, an accidental pizza delivery thief, the Glee kids on the big screen, getting along with the help, the final Final Destination and why we should never forget that chimps aren't human. It's all at the movies. 08/12/2011
Colorado Springs Independent Opening this week The Change-Up, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Help. 08/04/2011
5 more reviews...
The Coast Halifax Disappointing The Help Adaptation of Kathryn Stockett does disservice to black characters by Matt Semansky 08/11/2011
Tucson Weekly Mississippi in the '60s Fantastic acting puts 'The Help' over the top by Colin Boyd 08/11/2011
Charleston City Paper The Help has appeal, but struggles to balance its three leads The Help is a tale in which noble, downtrodden African-Americans in the still-segregated South, along with their forward-thinking white allies, do low-key battle with oppressive, vindictive racists. by Scott Renshaw 08/10/2011
Creative Loafing Atlanta Undercooked Southern tale could use some Help Kathryn Stockett's best-seller gets a draggy film adaptation by Curt Holman 08/10/2011

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