Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Help yourself with this one!

Calling The Help a ‘fair’ movie would be racist. At least in the 1960s of USA. More so in Mississippi where the movie is peculiarly set. But the notable part is it’s not only entertaining and educative but also inspiring and poignant at the same time. Adapted from a book titled the same, it deals with an era where the demarcation between the blacks and the whites in America was redoubtable. Mason-Dixon line was the norm. Despite all these not-so-modern day aberrations, one aspect was striking: almost all white kids in the town were nurtured by black maids.

Directed by Tate Taylor, who also happens to have written the screenplay, displayed intense sparks of genius in terms of storytelling. In this racial drama, Skeeter (Emma Stone) wishes to be a journalist-cum-writer. Running along this pursuit, she goes out of town only to return back and find her childhood maid Constantine (a powerful cameo by Cicely Tyson) sacked by her parents. This sets the tone for the movie. With the civil right movement gaining strength in the background, she decides to write a book so as to deliver the maids’ “side of stories”.

This is where Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer) enter the picture. Both are maids with emotional hardship to match as well as courageous enough to do what other maids aren’t prepared for – share their experiences with Skeeter. The former works for a somewhat indecisive Elizabeth (Ahna O'Reilly) whereas the latter, for a rather rude Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard). The book starts writing itself here onwards with Aibileen’s soothing voice in narration. But only two stories won’t do. Skeeter needs more maids to volunteer but who will rise against the white neighborhood’s imminent fear? Well, as the movie proceeds, many do. Willingly.

The Help touches the sentiment’s chord with a measured restrain. And that’s what works for it. It doesn’t try to vilify one group against another. No doubt it exposes the nexus of disdain among blacks for their apparent subjugation in the form of separate toilet and such. But then it also includes cheerful white characters Celia (Jessica Chastain) and Hilly’s liberal mother (played to perfection by Sissy Spacek). Furthermore, the movie strikes a right balance between comedy and tragedy.

Emma Stone has been the biggest surprise here. Her act does to this movie what Sandra Bullock’s did to ‘The Blind Side’. On the hindsight, 2011 hasn’t been very American for Hollywood due to the lack of race-related screenplays. The Help considerably fills that gap. It’s worth a watch.

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