By Emilly Martinez
Scandals, big hair and deep southern accents overlay “The Help.” Starring Emma Stone as Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, and Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, the film is an exploration of racial injustice in the southern United States.
Adapted from the 2009 novel “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, the film is set in Jackson, Miss., in the 1960s. “The Help” follows the unlikely friendship of Skeeter, a recent college graduate pursuing a writing career, and Aibileen and Minny, African-American housemaids, as they attempt to fight local social injustices by writing an anonymous tell-all book from the perspective of the maids.
Many organizations have criticized the film for reinforcing archetypes through the use of stereotypical African-American southern dialects, speech, and behaviors. Others say the use of stereotypes allows the film to be more believable as a story based in the early civil rights era.
Despite the film’s serious nature and the dangers Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny face from Mississippi laws in their efforts to correct injustices, “The Help” only touches superficially on the severity of the issues, which allows it to remain an upbeat story with intermittent comic relief and various subplots.
Both the maids and women they work for have extreme personalities ranging from venomous to bubblegum-sweet. Unfortunate events and circumstances plague the good and bad alike, giving the characters more relatable depth. Audience cheers and clapping were at their highest, however, when the antagonist Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) was the victim of a prank by Minny.
Thorough character development and a well-written plot gives “The Help” an emotional link to the audience, created without the use of explicit conflict, allowing it to maintain a PG-13 rating. Writers of the film allude to more serious issues throughout the film, such as domestic violence, but never show the acts.
The story follows the creation of the tell-all book from conception to publication, exploring the dangers faced during the writing process and the repercussions of the creators’ actions on all parts of their lives.
While the film is appropriate for younger audiences, its mature themes and references may lose teens early in the film.
Although the script was well developed, more could have been done under a PG-13 rating, such as including more scenes featuring the danger Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny faced. This would have helped audience members better understand the gravity of what they were doing and could have fostered a deeper connection to the storyline.
The film places emphasis on the stories of the maids, causing a subplot love story between Skeeter and Stewart (Chris Lowell) described in the book to be awkwardly placed throughout the movie. Its placement, however, suggests greater importance in the novel, leading the viewer to wonder what else he or she may possibly be missing out on by not reading the book.
Minor criticisms aside, Stone, Davis, Spencer and the rest of the cast took viewers on an emotional ride and made “The Help” an instant summer hit.
“The Help” is a touching story riddled with themes of courage, self-confidence, finding one’s own path and fighting for beliefs despite social opposition.
While serious in nature, it is a feel-good story laced with eccentric characters and hearty laughs.
This film is appropriate for all 13 and older.