It's not very often that I review a film geared to
the lady crowd. I hesitate to use the term "chick flick." I don't want to upset
anyone. Let's just say that I don't go out of my way to see films like "The
Help." One has to drag me to the movie theater, kicking and screaming, to see a
"The Help" is now available on Blu-ray.
It's not that I'm into movies that contain only explosions, car crashes, buxom beauties, and loud music. If I wanted that, I'd see any Michael Bay flick. I do, on occasion, enjoy films that have heart and soul. Films don't have to have a deep message or superb acting to get the job done. They can simply be films that are entertaining with a message, and that's what "The Help" is to me.
Growing up in Southern California, I witnessed racism in forms of verbal harassment and put-downs. I witnessed people being cruel to each other for no other reason than be ignorant of another person's skin color. I still hear derogatory comments about people who live in this region and it it upsets me. Racism is cruel, no matter who is being mistreated.
"The Help" offers a look into the waning days of racial indignity in the South during the 1960s. The picture writer/director Tate Taylor paints from author Kathryn Stockett's novel is somewhat rosy. The film is not meant to be a history lesson on how bad people were treated in the South. Rather, it's a story about friendship, bonding, and occasional backstabbing. The film plays as soap opera and a "Lifetime" movie. That's not necessarily bad, because the film is well-directed and the acting is above par. Just go into the film knowing that you won't be given a history lesson.
I won't go into the film's plot too much, as it's fairly simple. Nor will I go into each and every character, because there a quite a few. Emma Stone plays Skeeter, a somewhat dowdy young woman who is also an excellent writer. Growing up in the South, she and her friends had a black maid. Some of the maids were treated with respect and dignity by their employers, while others were treated horribly. Stone realizes that there is a story to be told from the perspective of the maids. She wants to write a book about the treatment of black maids in her hometown. This is something that has apparently never been done before. It's risky for her as a white woman, and it's risky for the people she wants to interview.
If the film suffers, it's from a long running time and its lack of a bite. The film is never boring, but it does seem to go on for a long time. The film holds back on addressing the issue of racism in the South. Indeed, the story revolves around the poor treatment of some of the maids, but I never felt a sense of anger about how some of these women were treated. That's why I refer to the film as being, to a degree, a soap opera or "Lifetime" movie. It tends to sugarcoat racism. But again, this is film entertainment, not a PBS history special.
I also felt that the Southern belles in the film were taken from a baking mold. They felt cliché and that I had seen them before in other films. Still, I don't think that's a bad thing. I very much enjoyed all of their performances. Taylor's direction is very good. He handles direction of the cast with strength and leads his screenplay in a logical direction.
I did enjoy the acting. Without a doubt, nearly every person in this film gives an excellent performance. Oscar-worthy? Not so much, but the acting is quite good. Stone is perfectly likable as Skeeter. She's determined to get her story, but she's never obnoxiously determined. Viola Davis is remarkable and reserved, projecting a quiet dignity throughout the film. Octavia Spencer is full of fire and grit, yet shows that her character is sensitive and kind. I was very pleased in watching the catty character of Hilly, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. She is simply enjoyable to watch. The payback she receives is memorable. And Sissy Spacek is wonderful as Missus Walters.
The Blu-ray picture is excellent. This isn't a home theater demonstration disc by any means, but the picture quality is clear and gets the job done.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is excellent. The film is mostly dominated by dialogue and the music score is usually subdued. The dialogue is clear.
I must admit, though I smirked at the thought of reviewing "The Help," I actually enjoyed it.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.