If there were someone who came to America and had no idea about our history of racism, this is not the movie I would use to explain it to them. Thatâ€™s not saying The Help is a bad movie, quite the contrary. It does seem to glaze over the history of race relations in a chick flick friendly fashion.
Set in Mississippi in the 1960â€™s the help chronicles the creation of a book that tells life stories from the point of view of several black housemaids. Itâ€™s a closer look at the racism that lies just beneath the surface. Emma Stone gives a passable performance as the young journalist.
The heart of the movie comes from Viola Davis, who plays Aibileen Clark. It is Aibileen who makes the decision to put her job, life, physical and personal freedom at risk by telling her own story. Her display of courage is what encourages others to tell their story. The underrated Octavia Spencer plays Minnie, another maid who tells her story and provides much of the comic relief.
Itâ€™s that comic relief that I found offsetting. Itâ€™s hard to go from a scene of blatant racism to another, where weâ€™re supposed to laugh. Overall, it provides the desired effect of brining you back from a tense moment. Still, this movie will be criticized for not staying in that moment and allowing you to reflect on it.
The conclusion to this story leaves something to be desired. Some of the main characters are seemingly left in a worse place than they started, while others might go on to future success. It waters down their triumph of standing up for what is right. There may be some healing from the story, but itâ€™s not guaranteed for some of the characters that weâ€™ve invested in.
I think there is something very powerful thatâ€™s said about not only the condemnable treatment of black people, but also of women. These are stories that need to be remembered. Presenting it in a palatable way to modern audiences is a tough sell. The Help manages to present what I think is a â€śliteâ€ť version of true history, but the feeling was there.