Tuesday, 18 October 2011

New Release - The Help

Having heard that the Help was a hot contender for the Oscars I decided to avoid reading any press about the film and even ignored the trailers. For the first few minutes I was slightly concerned that I had inadvertently turned up to a screening of the latest chick-flick but thankfully the female heavy cast did a fantastic job of bringing me round to the story, and the film managed to live up to its reputation as an Oscar contender as well as engaging my attention for the best part of two and a half hours.

Based upon the novel of the same name, The Help explores the lives of a number of African American maids in 1960s Mississippi as they encounter a young aspiring journalist who endeavours to document their hardships in order to combat the prevailing attitudes of racism and prejudice. It's hard not to read that sentence without the words 'Oscar-bait' popping into your mind, and true to form, this story tugs at the heartstrings with brilliant performances from all involved. It has already received comparisons to last years surprise hit The Blind Side but that is doing The Help a great disservice as it is far more accomplished and involving than the film which gave Sandra Bullock an Oscar.

Emma Stone has been slowly honing her craft as an up and coming actress with a number of star performances that vary enough in style to avoid her being typecast, with roles in Zombieland and Easy A standing out amongst her best. Here she is given a challenging role, but manages to succeed in portraying the hard-working writer with enough gravitas to make her motivations entirely believable. Nicknamed 'Skeeter', Emma Stone's character is a young lady on the outskirts of her social class due to her passion for work as opposed to the goal of finding a husband, which most of her peers have already succeeded in. When Skeeter finds a new job working as an agony aunt for a newspaper column that provides cleaning tips to its readers, she consults the local maids for assistance, and soon strikes up an unlikely friendship that proves beneficial to both parties.

Although at its core The Help is a heartfelt drama, there is enough humour throughout to lighten the tone, with a key scene involving a pie coming close to the hilarity of the infamous American Pie scene for its audacity and daring. Whilst there are upsetting scenes, they serve a purpose, which makes it all the more difficult to leave the characters behind as the credits begin to roll.

A film focusing on the Civil Rights movement cannot be complete without a message and thankfully The Help manages to avoid  the obvious cliches whilst still remaining relevant. The message is obvious without being obtrusive and the depth of the story means that audiences will be able to connect with the characters no matter their age, gender or race.

An exceptional emotional roller-coaster of a film, The Help is a must see for pretty much everyone. It certainly impressed me enough to seek out a copy of the book, and it is definitely worth catching on the big screen. With the current trend of pointless remakes and mindless action movies battling it out for your hard earned cash, do yourself a favour, and buy a ticket to watch The Help instead. You won't be disappointed.

8/10

If you like this, you will enjoy these:

The Colour Purple
Mississipi Burning
Made In Dagenham
The Blind Side