OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

The Help

Change begins with a whisper.

 

Short on style and flashy technique, The Help on film compensates with genuine emotional force.
 
Poster art for The HelpThe actors are sublime. Start with the brilliant Viola Davis (Doubt) as Aibileen Clark, the housekeeper who’s helped raise 17 white children for various families but is still reeling from the accidental death of her only son. Aibileen bites her tongue when her employer ignores her own baby girl and Aibileen’s feelings when she’s relegated to the new bathroom outside. Aibileen’s best friend, Minny Jackson (an award-caliber performance from Octavia Spencer), isn’t one to hold back. The secret ingredient she pops in a pie for her racist boss (Bryce Dallas Howard) earns its name as the ‘Terrible Awful.’ The fired Minny is forced to take a job with white-trash social outcast Celia Foote, who could have been a bombshell cliché if the incandescent Jessica Chastain (The Tree Of Life) didn’t play her with such warmth and feeling.
 
The film’s catalyst is Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan (Emma Stone), a recent graduate of Ole Miss looking to spark a career in journalism by getting Aibileen and Minny to confide their feelings about working for white families in a changing South. Skeeter is a tricky part – white girl liberates enslaved black womanhood – but Stone, an exceptional talent, is so subtly effective at showing Skeeter’s naiveté. It’s Skeeter’s job to first liberate herself from the bigoted codes passed on through generations, including her mother (Allison Janney) and Skeeter’s own card-dealing, role-playing girlfriends. The Help tries to understand all of them. It’s an intimate epic, not a historical one. And the tale written on the eloquent faces of Davis and Spencer speaks to the heart.
– Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

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