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The Help:

Mississippi during the 1960s: Skeeter, a southern society girl, returns from college determined to

become a writer, but turns her friends' lives--and a small Mississippi town--upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Aibileen, Skeeter's best friend's housekeeper, is the first to open upto the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter's life-long friendships hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their storiesand as it turns out, they have a lot to say. Along the way, unlikely friendships are forged and a new sisterhood emerges, but not before everyone in town has a thing or two to say themselves when they become unwittinglyand unwillinglycaught up in the changing times. Director: Tate Taylor Genre(s): Drama Rating: PG-13 Runtime: 137 min. Rolling Stone A deeply touching human story filled with humor and heartbreak is rare in any movie season, especially summer. That's what makes The Help an exhilarating gift. And the film version of The Help, directed and written at Stockett's request by the relatively inexperienced Tate Taylor (her friend from Jackson), does full justice to that intention. Short on style and flashy technique, The Help on film compensates with genuine emotional force. The actors are sublime. Start with the brilliant Viola Davis (Doubt) as Aibileen Clark, the housekeeper who's helped raise 17 white children for various families but is still reeling from the accidental death of her only son. Aibileen bites her tongue when her employer (Ahna O'Reilly) ignores her own baby girl and Aibileen's feelings when she's relegated to the new bathroom outside. Aibileen's best friend, Minny Jackson (an award-caliber performance from Octavia Spencer), isn't one to hold back. The secret ingredient she pops in a pie for her racist boss (Bryce Dallas Howard, all-stops-out) earns its name as the "Terrible Awful." The fired Minny is forced to take a job with white-trash social outcast Celia Foote, who could have been a bombshell clich if the incandescent Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life) didn't play her with such warmth and feeling. The film's catalyst is Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone), a recent graduate of Ole Miss looking to spark a career in journalism by getting Aibileen and Minny to confide their feelings about working for white families in a changing South. Skeeter is a tricky part white girl liberates enslaved black womanhood but Stone, an exceptional talent, is so subtly effective at showing Skeeter's naivet. It's Skeeter's job to first liberate herself from the bigoted codes passed on through generations, including her mother (Allison Janney) and Skeeter's own card--dealing, role--playing girlfriends. The Help tries to understand all of them. It's an intimate epic, not a historical one. And the tale written on the eloquent faces of Davis and Spencer speaks to the heart. Entertainment Weekly It's often been noted that before the civil rights era, the American South, while more racist than the North, was in one way more enlightened: Even at the vicious height of Jim Crow, blacks and whites coexisted with a casual and enduring day-to-day intimacy. They'd been living intertwined lives, after all, since the days of slavery. The Help, an emotionally enveloping, sharply alive big-canvas adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's powerful 2009 novel, is rooted in that truth more deeply than just about any Hollywood movie I can name. It understands that the ''separation'' of the races in the South wasn't just a crime it was a grand illusion. Early on, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), grave and solid, with a look so impassive it takes you a moment to see the silent protest in her eyes, tells us that she's a maid just like her mother, and that her grandmother was a house slave. It's 1961, and the matter-of-fact way that she delivers that information is startling, because she's really telling us that she's a house slave too. She's just called by a different title. She also says that she has raised 17 white children, so that's another way that the word maid seems inadequate. She's a nanny and in many ways, a surrogate mother. Set in Jackson, Miss. the middle-class heart of the Deep South The Help is Aibileen's story, and it's also the story of her best friend, Minny (Octavia Spencer), a pixie-faced rascal of a housekeeper/cook who's as feisty and contemptuous as Aibileen is circumspect. Davis and Spencer are both brilliant, etching these women's hopes and broken dreams with every line, and between the lines, too. The film is also about their comrades, and about the

women they work for a group of eager, perky housewives (they're like Southern-fried Betty Drapers) who are just the sort of bridge-club-and-benefit types that the movies love to caricature. Yet one of the scrupulous pleasures of The Help is that there isn't a caricature in it. Every woman on screen is fresh, live, and three-dimensional, whether it's Elizabeth (Ahna O'Reilly), the girlish conformist who cedes her motherly duties, including nurturing, to Aibileen; Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard), the snarling princess and out-of-thecloset racist who thinks that by forcing Minny to use a bathroom out back, she's preserving the cause of racial harmony (she's keeping everything in its place); or Celia (Jessica Chastain), the flaky, lost, Marilyn-esque whitetrash rich girl who hires Minny on the sly. In The Help, the issue of the bathroom becomes nearly mythic the domestic equivalent of lunch counters and the back of the bus. Bryce Dallas Howard, playing the soul of what had to be changed, gives a fearless performance, her smile treacherous, her eyes awake to every nuance of subservience (from her maid, and her friends, too). Hilly's old cohort, just returned from college, is Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone), who has already outgrown this circle but isn't quite sure where to turn. She takes a job at the Jackson Journal, doing a cleaning-advice column, and since she knows nothing about housework, she decides to get notes from Aibileen. That, in part, is what spurs Skeeter to do a book of interviews with the maids of Jackson, telling the story of Southern domestic life from their point of view. The book is dangerous to write, and ends up causing quite a stir, and that's the film's main motor. I've loved Stone as a wide-eyed comic sprite, but here, playing a young woman more no-nonsense than anyone around her, she doesn't just sparkle she holds the movie together. Pestering her mother (Allison Janney) to tell her why Constantine, the family maid of 29 years, was mysteriously let go, she makes you feel everything that maid meant to her. And Cicely Tyson, in flashbacks, makes Constantine, with her speech impediment, so vulnerable yet squinchy-eloquent that your heart breaks for her. The Help has a saucy, humorous side. The film turns on a hilariously vengeful incident in which Minny delivers a very just dessert to Hilly. After a while, though, the humiliation wrung out of that moment becomes overkill. The Help was written and directed by Tate Taylor, who is not a film artist), yet he keeps hitting full, sturdy notes of straight-down-the-middle emotion. The movie isn't perfect; it sometimes shows its stitching. But mostly it's a stirring salute to subjugated women who hold their heads high.

Last week I decided to watch one of the latest films and luckily I wasnt disappointed. My choice was a drama called The Help, directed by Tate Taylor, starring Viola Davis and the young talented Emma Stone. The story takes place in the 1960s when racism was everywhere. There, a southern society girl, Skeeter, returns from college determined to become a writer by getting Aibileen and Minny to confide their feelings about working for white families in a changing south.

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