Okay, so The Help is in many ways like The Descendants (one of its award adversaries of 2011) where it can be easily identified as another Oscar buzz, so to speak, due to the repetitive theme of the dialogue but nevertheless meaningful nature and its colourful and easy-going backgrounds. However, there are quite a number of hit and miss aspects that reside within The Help where certain techniques saved it, but in others made it an overrated disappointment. So, on the positive side of things, The Help manages to be a 50% success due to the absolutely outstanding acting from its ensemble cast (particularly Davis and Spencer), but the other 50% suffers from its rather severe flaws.
When observing racism as a theme of cinema, there’s quite a wide range of stories to put together about it particularly involving violence, slavery, politics and fighting for equal rights. In The Help’s case, it adds all four of those examples but where it really suffers is that it’s needlessly over-long in its running time where it gradually got very boring got us almost completely lost. Plus, consisting of the depressing theme and the emotional characters, The Help was too colourful and looked rather light-hearted when there is almost nothing friendly, lively nor funny about this film at all. So, in that sense, that’s where it went a bit wrong and should have been darker in tone to match with the subject represented.
Tate Taylor takes the role of both director and screenwriter of this adaptation from the novel by close friend, Kathryn Stockett. With not many films under his belt, The Help became his most vital film to date but unfortunately, the film wasn’t as impressive to watch as expected. It is filmed in a similar documentary style seeing as it analyses the thought-provoking tension regarding racism that we regularly see in everyday life. Taylor’s script of The Help has its ups and downs. The segments involving the narrations were pretty good, but as already stated, it goes overboard with repetitive scenes that just continues and doesn’t always get anywhere.
Despite the film does have its hard-hitting flaws, the performances from the ensemble cast (pretty much all female) are all absolutely outstanding! After her mesmerizing performances in most recent years, Emma Stone gives another grand performance in her role as Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan. Stone has frequently been seen as portraying drop-dead gorgeous and darkly sexy characters, but we see a nerdy and more emotional side to her. Viola Davis immediately received critical acclaim for her role as Aibileen Clark and now after seeing it, no wonder! Davis expresses a depressed and emotionally broken-down woman by showing a lot of vulnerability, anger and pain, but also honour and loyalty which showed her nice and sensitive side. So, by this jumble of different emotional aspects portraying a character, she does deserve the credit she gets, including a well-deserved Academy Award nomination. In addition to Viola’s outstanding role, Octavia Spencer gives an even stronger performance as Minny Jackson, who renovates the humour, emotional concepts and physical features of Hattie McDaniel in her Oscar winning performance as Mammy in Gone With The Wind. Spencer is all but guaranteed to receive the 84th Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress! Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain and Allison make fine appearances in the film too with good performances.
Overall, The Help is something that goes out of hand and is totally misused in many ways due to the backgrounds within the story and the needlessly continuous story. It is perhaps the most overrated film of 2011 but the performances from the actors (especially Davis and Spencer) make this film suitable enough to call a film worthy of a few Oscars. So, apart from the occasionally empty story, The Help is perhaps still worth seeing purely for the acting.