Help, The

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: -2

Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone. Drama. Disney. Written & directed by Tate Taylor. Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, The Help stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives—and a small Mississippi town—upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Academy Award® nominee Viola Davis stars as Aibileen, Skeeter’s best friend’s housekeeper, who is the first to open up—to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter’s life-long friendships hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their stories—and as it turns out, they have a lot to say.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Unlike every black person in the story, the film is not perfect. On the other hand, unlike nearly every white person in the story, the film has positive elements. I kept wondering how the film would play in Mississippi as it not only indicts the abuse of an entire race’s civil rights, but it portrays that state’s white citizenry of the 1950s/1960s as airheads, or vindictive morons, each lacking any true compassion for anyone, let alone a race they’ve been brought up to suspect. And never before has a particular race, here being the black race, been portrayed as so noble and wise. I mean, nobody in that entire southern state can even cook fried chicken without the tutelage of a black maid. In other words, it’s a bit heavy-handed. Or so I thought until I began to realize that the intent was to satirically show how insight and compassion can overcome ignorance and prejudice.

The author of the book, the writer of the screenplay, and the producers are white and weren’t trying to belittle their own race, but comically and poignantly searing through a passed-down social bigotry. The result: the film reminds viewers of how far the civil rights movement has come, while gently revealing that society still has a ways to go before prejudice and bigotry toward any group is completely conquered.

Now, for what I did pick up on quickly: True Christianity is uplifted in The Help. A black pastor encourages his congregation to love others, even your enemies, even those who do you injustice. Though we see the hypocrisy of those who use church more as a sorority, the film brings home the need for faith and an awareness of the teachings of Jesus to overcome those who find value in themselves by belittling others.

The production values are topnotch, as are the performances, especially that of Viola Davis. Ms. Davis evidences a quiet strength of character in her role of a nurturing woman who ultimately realizes she has a responsibility to stand up for the truth.

You know a film is good when you think back on it, remembering moments that inspire conscience or tickle the funny bone. What’s more, while it is necessary for laws and education to be used to fight bigotry, The Help suggests that it also takes a belief in a Higher Power’s love to patiently battle anger and suspicion. Because it contains these elements, The Help has a place on my Best of the Year selections.

The Help is funny, poignant and inspiring; one of the best films of the year.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Around seven obscenities, mostly the s-word; the n-word is heard twice; there are several minor expletives such as damn or hell.

Profanity: Christ’s name is profaned twice and the expression “G--d---” is uttered four times.

Violence: We hear of a couple of people being gunned down, but do not see the murders. A woman losses her unborn child, we see lots of blood during the scene.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Occasional drinking.

Other: In revenge for being ill treated, a woman cooks up a pie for her previous employer – the pie containing, ah…a bit of herself; the scene is played for laughs.

Running Time: 137 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens and Up

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