Film Review: The Help
● By Wendy Sipple
Based off an immensely popular novel, The Help chronicles a young female writer named Skeeter, who decides to write a book for a publisher that she aims to work for. Her book, titled The Help chronicles the lives of several maids in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s. Through their stories the maids reveal the ugly truth of the lives of the elite and respected woman of the town.
The Help strikes a good balance of humor and drama while frantically jumping from several different storylines of the many characters in the story. Tate Taylor, who adapted and directed the film, is very efficient with his storytelling, which, with this story, was a must, as even at 137 minutes long seems as compact as the story possibly could be. The fact that the movie covers so many characters and subplots as well as it does really seemed to please fans of the book, at least at the screening I attended. Despite the movie managing to cover all these different stories I can’t help to think that if the movie had focused on just two of the storylines the emotional payoff and impact would have been larger in the end. It was abundantly clear that the novel may have had too much material for a single feature film but may have been explored better in a high quality HBO TV production.
The acting on display was top notch by all involved. I particular enjoyed Octavia Spencer’s portrayal of Minny, a maid that by far had most of the best moments in the film. Bryce Dallas Howard was extremely effective as the evil racist housewife in the film. I also quite enjoyed the enthusiastic performance of Jessica Chastain as the ostracized housewife Celia Foote.
There was very little to dislike in the movie, and The Help was paced very well. It could be said that some of it can come across a bit like a soap opera but the director never lingers on a scene or even a single subplot long enough for it to sag under its emotional weight. Some of the characters are painted with a fairly wide brush, making some of the characters seem like caricatures. I think some of this was due to the time limitations the film was under.
Fans of the book are definitely enjoying the movie a lot. I think by having read the book they have a deeper background on all the subplots that take place. Having not read the book and just seen the movie, I found The Help to be an enjoyable film that packs a lot of story into a two hour movie.
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Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.