On The Edge Films

Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds

The Help


2011/ USA

Director: Tate Taylor

Starring: Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Sissy Spacek, Bryce Dallas Howards, Allison Janney

The Help is a phenomenal story that provides us with some insight into the battle between races in the 1960s in Mississippi and the push for equality just before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. Director Tate Taylor creates a fantastic adaptation of the bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, in which they both illustrate the oppression of African American women, particularly in South America and their battle to get their voices heard. Interestingly, likewise to the controversy the film faced from viewers, the novel faced similar debate, with at least 45 rejection letters prior to finally getting published. Personally, I believe the stars of the film are Viola Davis who provides an inspirational performance as the maid Aibileen and Emma Stone who depicts the character Skeeter, the southern white girl who helps provide these women with a voice, very well indeed.

The tale is set in Mississippi in the 1960s with recently returned Skeeter (Stone) who has been studying to become a writer and is unique to her tight-knit racist southern friends. She is a heroine journalist in the making as she deceives her friends in order to push for equality by interviewing the African American maids who have devoted their lives and sacrificed their families to take care of white southern families, while being treated appallingly. Aibileen (Davis), who is Skeeter’s friend’s housekeeper, is the first to collaborate and slowly more people come forward to tell their tales of their troubled lives and unfair prejudice and discrimination. As the truth and secrets begin to emerge, unlikely friendships are formed to the dismay and ignorance of those southern families maids have spent their lives serving.

The Help not only demonstrates the difficult days black people faced and is a dramatic yet accurate depiction of inequality, but also adds comical effect.  Aibileen’s (Davis) friend and fellow maid Minny (Octavia Spencer) provides laughs as she finds revenge and payback her coping mechanism, along with the comical Missus Walters (Sissy Spacek) who is the mum of prim and proper racist Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howards). This film conveys the struggle for equality and the determination people have to get their voices heard, but also that within those societies in Southern America, not everybody was racist just because they were white. For instance Skeeter’s mum Charlotte (Allison Janney) although a main member of the community, she is no racist but merely tries to protect her image to the rest of her friends, demonstrating that everybody is different and everybody is equal. The Help is an inspirational film, which I highly recommend, with phenomenal performances from a fantastic cast; it will not only keep your attention by entertaining you, but will provide you with an understanding of what life was like for African American people in the 1960s.


-Becca Darbyshire


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