Friday, July 5, 2013

Movie Review: The Help

Title: The Help
Author: based on the book by Kathryn Stockett
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: PG-13
Age Group: 16+

Skeeter is an independent young women surrounded by petty southern women who do not understand her. Get a husband, get him fast, and have babies. That's what you're supposed to do. So why in the world is Skeeter getting a job of all things? A journalist? Not only did she go to college, but she doesn't seem interested in dating. She seems interested in the help.
That's right. Skeeter is talking to the African-American women who have been hired as maids for the young women who look down on Skeeter. Crazy Skeeter. What is she thinking? She's going to get into trouble one of these days, yes she really is. Just you wait and see. That girl is backward.

Word of Warning:
  • The entire movie is filled with racist thoughts and viewpoints--all negatively portrayed of course. That's the point of the movie. It shows us what this time was really like.
  • Many of the racist moments center around a new law one of the young women is having put into place. This law requires that the help have their own bathroom and not use the bathroom of those they work for. One can imagine how well this would go over with younger audiences. Never do we get too much detail, but we do see a little girl sit on a toilet with her pants down (her dress hides almost everything else) as well as one of the help (again, her dress hides everything except her legs).
  • God's name is used inappropriately a few times, as is Jesus's. The words d**n, n*gger, a**, and s*** are used more than once. The catalogue of words is up there, yes, but not in a horrific way. This is historical fiction of the south, after all.
  • A desperate maid falls for a trap and steals a ring. She is later arrested and, when she struggles, is hit with a baton (we do not see the impact).
  • Another maid is framed for theft and fired.
  • A woman wears dresses with low-cut necklines and curve-hugging seams.
  • A woman has a miscarriage and we see blood on the floor, her hands, and her clothes. She later confesses that this is her fourth, that she hasn't told her husband, and that he wants children now. (This is a misunderstanding on her part. He actually does care for her.)
  • A couple gets married after they find out that the woman is pregnant.
  • A maid, who has been terribly wronged, brings a chocolate pie to her former employer. After the young woman has eaten some, the maid says, "Eat my s***," revealing to us what is in the pie. This is eventually used against the young woman to protect all the other maids, and this young woman is laughed at by her mother as well as other women who claimed to be her friends.
  • A young woman puts her mother in a nursing home out of spite.
  • A mother who is growing old does not have a strong grasp on reality. The maids treat her kindly and as a human being, but the young women are disrespectful of her.
  • Skeeter's mom is intent on getting Skeeter a man and getting the two married. At one point she implies that she's afraid that Skeeter is attracted to women, not men, but Skeeter is horrified and actually looks sick at the thought.
  • Skeeter and her mother are shown in underdresses which look much like a corset and a skirt.
  • Nearly everyone smokes. The movie has a good laugh by having the editor of a paper say something to the effect of "Some day they're going to find out those things kill you."
  • People drink at parties but rarely get drunk.
  • Stuart does get drunk and insults Skeeter. He later comes to apologize.
  • A man is shot for racist reasons, a car is set on fire for the same reason (both reported on TV and not seen in the movie).
  • The son of one of the maids is killed in a terrible accident (before the movie starts) and she misses him very much.
  • The young women of the south are almost all completely hypocritical. The only two who are not do not have a good social standing.
  • A husband, coming home for lunch, grabs his wife's backside before kissing her and mentioning how "hungry" he is. She giggles.
  • There is disrespect toward humans beings (of different races and of the same), often between children and their parents.
  • A young woman throws up at a party.
  • It is suggested that a woman is beaten by her husband.
  • There are more problems, but these are the biggest ones.
My Thoughts:
Generally, I like movies with action and a bit of romance. The flip side is that I find it hard to be interested in Jane Austin movies which, while they have a fair dose of romance, focus on social gatherings and happenings.
This movie does just that, but it is a work of art (like many of the Jane Austin movies are). It's incredibly hard to review, but I was very impressed. I felt like I was right back in the 1960's in Mississippi. Everything from the clothing down to the social activities and the way of speech. Honestly, I was incredibly impressed. But being impressed isn't the point of the movie, is it? The point of the movie is to shed light on how bad things really were back then. It did just that, but it managed to impress me one more time.
The attitude of the maids toward other human beings struck me as amazing. They had been harmed in so many ways, over and over, but somehow they managed to swallow their pain and continue on with kindness. How in the world did they manage? Skeeter wanted to know too. The answer she got? They were Christian. They were truly Christian.


grandma jane said...

Good review. Yes this one is definitely for the adult mind.
This (and the book) does transport one back to the times of brutal racial inequality in the south. One thing I found interesting is that the author of the story chose a 'writer' to be the axis for change.
Don't know if this makes any difference for those who might want to see this film, but Octavia Spencer (Minnie) won the Oscar for best supporting actress that year.
Another good review of contemporary material.

Maria Gianna said...

Grandma Jane,
Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
I agree that the story was for an adult audience. I was struck by how well it transported the viewer back through time. And I really enjoyed the part of the writer being so center to the whole story.