You is Kind, You is Smart, You is Important

The Help (2011)
A Review by Ben Hunter
3½ Out of 5 Stars
August 10, 2011

“You is kind, you is smart, you is important”.

A colorful theme to Tate Taylor’s adaptation of this beautiful story of life in the classic, southern, 60’s of America. 

The Help is a story about a girl, Skeeter (Emma Stone), who has a traditional life in Southern Mississippi with her friends and her mother who’s constantly urging for her to find love. Skeeter is an aspiring writer with a good heart and always sees what’s beneath the experiences she lives everyday and is always keen to find the story. She's a very independent girl, self sufficient.  

This leads her to see the harsh reality behind the use of servants or “the help” for families everywhere, including her own.  The primary jobs for African American women in this time, in this area, were to serve families, and were considered lower class or bottom of the barrel.  So Skeeter wants to get their perspective on this experience to get a sense of what really goes on and see this from the other side, the side of the help, to expose the truth and start change.  

Skeeter has an interested publisher (Mary Steenburgen) in her endeavors, if she can provide the manuscript.  So Skeeter is now determined to get the story and for the truth to surface.  Keep in mind this is during the civil rights movement, a time when African American leaders and those alike were persecuted for speaking up against hate.  So this brings hardship to Skeeter’s quest to get the book published, as some maids don’t want to loose their jobs for being the one who spoke ill of the family they serve.   

We come to grasp with the feelings of those on both sides of this issue.  We see how America was in this day.  How a significant amount of people believed that African Americans were inferior and even carried diseases because they were different.  This story touches on a very serious issue, very delicate, that gently needs to be brought to life in this beautiful story.

My hat’s off to Viola Davis, who portrayed the main housekeeper that Emma Stone worked with to get the interviews from the other maids.  She was the one sure thing about this movie until critics everywhere saw the film and award season approached and the supporting cast were recognized as well, such as the talents of Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain.  As well as Bryce Dallas Howard who did a very convincing job as one of the normal thinking upper class citizens who leads the movement to keep the status quo of superiority. 

I can’t say the same for Emma Stone, where this role was a major step up in her career and abilities, but more work could’ve been done in my opinion to convince the audience in her being that independent, southern bell she was trying to portray here.  I just wasn’t 100% convinced in her actions.  It was in particular the little things that made it clear that I couldn’t buy her performance; the way she’d walk and swagger, the way she’d hold a cigarette or smoke it, etc.  I could tell she’d put in a lot of hard work which I commend her on, but a little more work could’ve been exerted here in my opinion to fully convince me that I’m dealing with Skeeter Phelan, a classy, southern woman, not Emma Stone trying to be some southern girl.  But this role was a step up for Emma and in the right direction of one day becoming a great actress. However, Viola, Octavia, and Jessica should get the recognition for the acting in this film.

All in all, The Help is a moving story of a different perspective than your average stories told today.  It’s “wow factor” isn’t really all that high to really blow the audience away in an emotion of such movement and awe.  But it’s still an important story that needs to be told; reminding us, whatever gender, color, or class, "you is kind ... you is smart ... you is important"! 

The Help
Drama, 146 Minutes, PG-13
Written for the Screen & Directed By: Tate Taylor
Cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard 

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