Filled with beautiful characters, powerful thematic nuances, impressive directing, and a great set of glazing performances, The Help is an Oscar material film that shouldn't be missed by anyone out there, cinephile or casual moviegoer.
The Help is mostly about this group of black maids or helpers who, helped by a young aspiring journalist named Skeeter (Emma Stone), will cross lines never imagined by themselves in order to tell their honest and painful stories to the world. This sounds dramatic and it really is but the narrative structure of the film hides much more than just that. The characters are well built and represented. The details are both obvious and enigmatic. The cliches are there but they are barely visible. The variety of personalities is very well exploited in this film thanks to the wonderful work of these talented actors and thanks to the chemistry between them. The leading role, Aibileen (Viola Davis), represents the most self-controlled women in those times, the ones who had patience and who had found a blessing in their personal sufference. Viola Davis plays this role with an exquisite naturalism delivering not only a powerful peformance but also a honest one. A performance that will touch your sould from the very first moment. Her maid friend Minny (Octavia Spencer), who was also the best cook in Mississippi, represents the cheerful and the well-known funny aggressive attitude of the black women. She's full of jokes because that's how she can live through all the chaos and misery in her life. While both these women seem totally different they do share the same amount of pain and hope for a better future. They are both courageous women that fought not only for their freedom but also for their own identity since they did lost some of themselves while walking the strange paths that crawled into their lives.
Of course, in a movie in which the racial theme flourishes like this, we must have the villain, the one that feeds from their servants pain and begging. This unscrupulous and egocentrical person is wonderfully portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard who gives one of the best performances in her career if not the best. Hilly Holbrook is that arrogant, selfish, ignorant and self-centered young women that has her own sisterhood in the city. The one that loves to chit-chat and spread gossip around. The portrayal of Bryce Howard adds a somehow theatrical performance next to the naturalism displayed by the other two actresses. Both methods of acting being well displayed thanks to the wonderful addition of another impressive breakout of this year, Jessica Chastain, who plays Celia Foote, a silly, troubled, warm and funny young woman that is in desperate need of a way out of her daily rutine and sadness. She gets to play a big part in the lives of the maids, being part of the few that did see more than just colors. Funny how the educated and the ones that appeared to be in control of their lives were so blind towards this sample of humanity, while a "classless" and troubled woman found the strength to not only fight with her demons but also hug and love their so-called "enemy". But the story won't be full without our journalist protagonist, Skeeter (Emma Stone). A young writer that found herself always in an uncomfortable zone while being around the group of hyenas led by Hilly Holbrook. She aspired to the better so she did the best that she could. She trusted these women and arranged the best setting they could have had. She gained their trust and from that moment on, the wonderful relation between them led a tremendous act of courage. Emma Stone's performance seems to be the most blad and shallow. While she hit the right emotions and covered the role pretty good, she seemed kinda out of that place, out of that period of time. She looked too modern, she acted too modern, she was too excentric for that time that her character was not as believable as the rest. While her performance was the weakest I still find it pretty good since all the others are so good that they are already Oscar-worthy. Viola Davis is locked for the leading role and I think both Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard should be nominated for the secondary role category for their wonderful theatrical desplay.
The contrast of this film is also well displayed by the great usage of colors, cinematography, lightning, set-decorations and costumes. The delivery of the narrative content is blended with a visual force of bright colors which adds more to the great contrasts this movie has. The Help is surely one of the best movies of 2011 and holds probably the best overall display of acting. It might seem casual and repeatative in terms of storytelling but directing wise and acting wise this is a solid cinematic achievement. Filled with beautiful characters, powerful thematic nuances, impressive directing, and a great set of glazing performances, The Help is an Oscar material film that shouldn't be missed by anyone out there, cinephile or casual moviegoer.
Technical Execution: 8.3
Replay Value: 9