November 21, 2011

This Jedi Reviews The Help

Last night, my bestest girlfriends and I visited our favorite movie theater. Why is it our favorite movie theater, you ask? Well, that is because admission is only $2. Amazingly, it looks just like all the other theaters except the movies have been out longer and the ticket is cheaper...much cheaper.

Anyway, we decided against Lion King 3D and opted to check out The Help. Several of us had heard good things about it from others who had paid full-price for their viewing, so we thought we'd give it a go. I have to say, we were not disappointed.

In a similar fashion to the latest Nancy Drew movie, the costumes were impeccable. Absolutely a feast for the eyes. The contrast of the maid uniforms of 'the help' and the over the top frou-frou of the southern women of the sixties was striking. What was interestingly missing, however, was a soundtrack of much note. I noticed the music only a couple of times, and when I did I was surprised at it's inclusion. That didn't diminish the feel of the movie, however; I was mesmerized from the opening scene to the last. In fact, we all were just glued to our chairs when the end credits started to roll; for myself, I was definitely lost in contemplative thought concerning the subject matter.

The movie deals with the racist attitudes that prevailed in that time period in upper-class Jackson, Mississippi. For this Pacific Northwest girl, it rubs me raw to see injustice due to skin color, so just watching this stirred a fair amount of anger. However, the subject was handled with a good balance of reality of the situation and clever get-even to make it pretty enjoyable and entertaining. The narrative moved along smoothly and at a good pace, incorporating characters that were both easy to relate to and likeable. The one character that you were supposed to not like so much was perfect in her role; Hilly (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) was easy to detest for her bad behavior heavily disguised as southern belle (and a stunningly beautiful southern belle, at that).

The main character, Skeeter, is the youngest of a genteel southern family who employed maid help. Skeeter was raised by a sweet, black maid (Constantine) played by Cicily Tyson. An aspiring writer, Skeeter witnesses the injustice done to the black help by their white employers in her own hometown, and chooses to work at writing and publishing their stories.  Emma Stone plays Skeeter, and it was a pure joy to watch her in this role.

Emma Stone as Skeeter
Now, I have spent my fair share of time in the south (I have family in southern Mississippi), and I must say that this movie was not far off when it comes to cultural norms - this movie felt authentically Mississippi. It was fascinating to see Jackson portrayed in the sixties, complete with the clothing, cars and businesses. I find the south charming and endearing...except for the racist part, (No, I don't believe that all southerners are racist.  However, there is still much racial tension in the southern states, it is true.)

The bottom line:
If you have a soft-spot for the south as much as I do, you will definitely enjoy this movie. The subject matter is serious but handled well, while maintaining a lighter feel. Expect to contemplate the cultural relations between blacks and whites upon your leaving the theater, though, as I'm sure the imagery will not leave you anytime soon.

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post-script:  After writing and publishing this post, I took the opportunity to ask my southern husband if his family, or anyone he knew, had black help when he was growing up. I got the feeling he didn't want to talk about it much, but said that they had help while they lived in Alabama for a time (which must have been in the sixties sometime). The first time I visited his family after we were married in '92, his grandmother (Miss Tee, who was in her late seventies at the time) had maid help, as well. When Miss Tee referred to her in a possessive (and what I considered a very derogatory) way, she just blinked at me in total ignorance; she couldn't understand my indignation at the use of such language towards a black woman. Such a difference in culture...simply amazing.

3 comments:

Ari C'rona said...

Excellent review! :o)

asl4god said...

I'm really glad we saw it....While I do enjoy the Lion King, I think this was the better choice....maybe Lion King next time, eh? ;-)

Mama Cache said...

It was definitely on my "want to see" list (even on my "want to read" list) -- kudos to the Jedi reviewer!

". . . bad behavior heavily disguised as southern belle" -- You sure can paint a picture, girl.