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Every now and then a book comes along that not only entertains but reminds us of who we were and what we have become. "The Help," by Kathryn Stockett, is just such a book and the movie that it inspired lives up to the printed word.
Set in Jackson, Miss., one of the epicenters of racial tension in the 1960s, "The Help" follows the stories of two very different groups of women navigating the challenges and changes of the time.
With so many wonderful, touching layers, this film is guaranteed to garner Oscar nominations.
One group is best described as the upper crust; young white women of Jackson recently graduated from Ole Miss who are beginning their lives as wives and mothers. The other is the group employed by these debutantes, black women who cook, clean and virtually raise the white babies of the families they serve.
Emma Stone and Viola Davis star as Skeeter and Aibileen, the two pivotal characters who form an unlikely alliance when Skeeter launches her writing career as a "helpful housecleaning hints" columnist in the local paper.
Knowing nothing about the subject, she gets permission from a friend to ask her maid, Aibileen, to assist in answering questions from readers. As the relationship grows, Skeeter sees an amazing opportunity to write about these women who serve the families of Jackson.
Skeeter is not the typical Southern belle; she's tall, not married, and actually wants a career, all to the horror of her mother. Aibileen is a tender woman who is coping with the tragic death of her own son and takes great pride in the many white children she has raised and loved. But getting Aibileen to not only open up and agree to help write the book but approach other maids as well is a tough sell for Skeeter.
I loved the book, had high hopes for the film and "The Help" didn't disappoint.
Life for the help is precarious at best. They're underpaid, serve only at the whim of the families who employ them and are often fired and black-balled for minor or non-existent transgressions. Even women who have devoted their lives to one family, like Constantine (Cicely Tyson) who raised Skeeter can suddenly disappear. So, when feisty Minny Jackson, wonderfully portrayed by Octavia Spenser, agrees to share her stories for the book, it's at no small risk and has a profound influence on others.
It's not only the individual stories, it's the reaction to news events and the feel of the times that is woven into those stories that makes the movie resonate.
With so many wonderful, touching layers, this film is guaranteed to garner Oscar nominations including Best Picture. The biggest problem the Academy will have is to decide which categories are applicable.
"The Help" could realistically produce three Best Actress nominations -- Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and certainly Viola Davis.
I loved the book, had high hopes for the film and "The Help" didn't disappoint. It's my favorite movie so far this year.
It's rated PG-13 and I'm giving it 4 stars.