Brighton Lite Film Review: The Help

By Julia Thompson

Tate Taylor’s film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help is an inspiring tale of one woman’s attempt to break the cycle of racism suffered by black maids in 1960s America.

Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) is an aspiring young writer living in civil era America. Having completed a college degree she goes back to her somewhat stifled existence living with her parents in Jackson, Mississippi. She soon grows disillusioned with her privileged lifestyle of baking parties, bridge evenings and her mother’s attempts to set her up with totally unsuitable men. Skeeter turns her attention to the discrimination and racism that black maids are subjected to by her middle-class white friends. This prompts her to write an incredibly controversial book exposing the problem.

The Help, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett is superbly acted; the plot unravels steadily and never leaves room for predictability. The film succeeds in blending humour with a serious issue; Maid, Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), who’s blunt nature has resulted in her getting fired from most of the jobs she’s had, provides many comical moments. Only her cooking skills save her from being completely unemployable, but even these she uses to exact her revenge on a particularly nasty employer, with hilarious consequences.

I can’t help feeling, however that the film is trying to market itself as a warm-hearted tale of sisterhood, where white woman “rescues” black woman. And wonder if, in typical Hollywood style, they are trying to gloss over the real issue.

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