Oscar-bait portayal of the civil rights struggle in the Deep South
As Lee Hazlewood wrote in his musical paean to the nihilistic life: ‘Honey, I’m gonna snowball Jackson. See if I care.’ He needn’t have bothered, someone already had. A white American baby boom in the Deep South in the 1950s had taken care of that. The fallout of which was a rise in the need for inexpensive childcare, a vacuum filled by African American women. Based on Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling 2009 novel, The Help follows one progressive young white daughter of Jackson (Emma Stone) as she befriends and records the experiences of these abused maids.
Thoughtfully written and directed by actor turned filmmaker Tate Taylor, The Help, like some aged Southern gentleman, is in no great hurry to tell its tale of prejudice, petty injustices and malevolent hypocrises in the Civil Rights era. Stabilised from sentimentality by the performances of the actresses portraying the maids whose perspectives give the film its structure (Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer), The Help manages to be both moving and thought-provoking. Rising star Stone handles her kindly imperialist role with a certain amount of warranted self effacement and Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek and Allison Janney bravely line up as skittles of bigotry ready for the toppling.
General release from Wed 26 Oct.