Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer
Director: Tate Taylor
Running Time: 146 mins
The Help is an American film about the lives of African-American housemaids in the racist state of Mississippi in the mid-1960s, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, and one young author who decides to tell their story to the world.
More often than not, historical dramas come along professing their significance and then fall flat, never to be looked upon as highly again. However, in the case of The Help, you get a hugely fascinating historical drama that tells a very understated story full of emotion, humour and heavy drama that all comes together to make a much more compelling film in comparison to the more intense historical dramas that see themselves as so important.
The Civil Rights Movement and African-American rights from the late 19th to mid 20th Century have become popular topics in recent Hollywood films, i.e. 12 Years A Slave and Selma, but The Help is by far the best. 12 Years was an excessively self-important drama that didn’t feature a particularly intriguing story, despite its use of brutal drama to capture your attention, whilst Selma just felt a little bit lacking in heavy drama to give the fully powerful message that it intended to.
On the other hand, The Help succeeds in delivering an emotional and compelling story without becoming so self-important. The story is about the struggle of oppressed black workers in the Deep South to come out and tell of their awful treatment, and in that, it tells a much more human story than any of its counterparts.
The main characters are fantastically developed, and with such a well-rounded background behind each and every one of them, you can easily care and identify with them, particularly the two main housemaids, played by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, bringing you so much closer to their story and struggle than you would normally be, and increasing the emotional power of it significantly.
However, don’t think that this is only a heavy-going historical drama with no sign of hope. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Yes, there are moments of devastating drama, but the prevailing atmosphere of this film isn’t one of total despair, but instead a sense of hope for change in the form of Emma Stone’s character, who brings a refreshingly progressive attitude to the table in the hope of freeing these people from their racist ‘masters’.
As a result, the film is full of uplifting moments as progress is made, as well as wonderful humour and excellent chemistry between the three main characters of Stone, Davis and Spencer, who really shine and take this film to a level that makes it something much more special than a run-of-the-mill historical drama with their performances.
The film may be effectively two and a half hours long, but the fantastic writing makes it fly by, with the more pleasant atmosphere making it a significantly more enjoyable watch than any of the previously mentioned counterparts, and that’s why The Help gets an 8.2 from me.