|The Help (2011)|
Standing up for what you believe in sometimes means that you may have to stand alone. In 1962 Jackson, Mississippi at the height of racial tension and segregation between the well to do whites and the struggling blacks, the idea of standing up for your radical beliefs in just unheard of. Most people content themselves with the separate but equal mentality. It's all right to have a black maid raise your children, but illegal for them to use the house bathroom. Doing what's right in the face of adversity can make people silent, it can make them run to the hills...and it can also help them spread their wings and fly against whatever raging wind comes at them.
Aibileen Clark: Since she was fourteen years old, Aibileen has devoted her life to raising white children. She has loved them, praised them, mentored them with the simple philosophy of You is kind, you is smart, you is important. Although Aibileen loves the children she cares for, she harbors resent and anger toward their often times absent parents who never see potential in their children unless they're attractive. After the death of her only beloved son and his brutal treatment by his white co-workers, Aibileen wants nothing to with the white community and Jackson and solely devotes herself to her children and her best friend, Minnie Jackson.
Then the unexpected happens when 23 year old, Ole' Miss English Grad, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan surprisingly asks to interview Aibileen about her life as a maid. Shocked and appalled at the idea of revealing her personal opinions of the families she has worked with, Aibileen turns her down, but the memory of her son who dreamed of becoming a writer helps her change her mind. She then assissts Skeeter with her work and overtime begins to admire and respect the young girl for her courage, fortitude and for risking all that she has to write the truth.
Aibileen was my favorite character and Viola Davis played her so exceptionally well! When we first meet Aibileen she is cut off from the rest of the world because of her son's death, but helping Skeeter slowly changes her way of thinking. There was a wonderful sadness about Aibileen that coincided with an incredible strength and made her a truly unique and admirable character.
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Minnie Jackson: Minnie is known throughout all of Jackson for two things, her incredible cooking and her sassy mouth. When she pushes it too far and loses her job, Minnie has to look for employment outside of town when her former employer, Hilly Holbrook, spreads rumors around town that Minnie is a thief. Minnie gets a job secretly working for the social outcast Celia Foote, a former white trash girl from Sugar Ditch, who is completely clueless about life in Jackson. Through the course of time working at the Footes, Minnie begins to feel a place of belonging and acceptance with insipid Celia. And Celia finds an unlikely companionship with Minnie and sees her as more than just her maid, but a friend.
In spite of her fieriness, Minnie is compassionate and self-sacrificing. A mother with five children, a wife to an abusive husband and a loyal friend to Aibileen Clark, Minnie has a hard time escaping the realities of life. When Aibileen and Skeeter ask Minnie for her help with Skeeter's secret project, Minnie gives them an immediate no and slams the door. She changes her mind for Aibileen's sake and puts her life on the line to write the illegal book. Like Aibileen, Minnie begins to view white people in a different light thanks to Skeeter and realizes that just because things are, doesn't mean that's the way it should be.
Funny and full of life, Octavia Spencer completely made Minnie real. Her role as the comic relief was certainly not downplayed and she was a perfect casting choice. There is a wonderful change that takes place in Minnie due to helping Skeeter. Most of the time Minnie uses her sass and fire to hide her pain and fear, but letting her thoughts be heard gives her a courage and confidence that she never thought she could possess.
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|Eugenia "Skeeter"Phelan (Emma Stone) in|
The Help (2011)
Spitfire Skeeter Phelan is a wide eyed graduate from Ole' Miss who has ambitions of becoming a great novelist. Much to the dismay of her traditional mother and friends who believe that marriage and children should be the eleventh commandment. As a matter of fact, Skeeter could really care less about marriage, seeing as men have never noticed her and she's tired of trying to get them to. Instead Skeeter would rather write the next great American novel, it's just her idea is a little...controversial. When a well respected editor in New York asks Skeeter to submit a story that is based on what she herself may find troubling when everyone else doesn't, Skeeter does the unexpected and decides to write a book based on the colored maids in Jackson, Mississippi. An idea that could get her arrested or even killed if found out.
At first, Skeeter is naive about the rules of segregation and doesn't understand the risk she's taking. Then after studying the segregation laws of Jackson (which is illegal in its itself) Skeeter now realizes that it's more than writing a book and getting a job, but a chance to do what's right even when she might lose everything she has and everything she's worked for. When she enlists the help of maids, Aibileen Clark and Minnie Jackson, Skeeter's eyes are opened to the truths and secrets that are revealed about the maid's employers of Jackson, many of them her own friends. When Skeeter finishes the book she now sees life in a different way. She has lost her friends, her boyfriend and her social standing in Jackson, but has become a stronger woman due to the writing of "The Help" and above all has finally let the truth be heard.
I was unfamiliar with Emma Stone before this movie, but she is absolutely charming and engaging in her role as Skeeter Phelan. I loved the fact that Skeeter wasn't the stereotyped stunningly beautiful heroine, but a gawky frizzy haired grad. who wanted to make a difference in the world. She uses her gifts and talents not for her own benefit but for those around her. She sacrifices a lot and gains so much more with her talent, her courage and her honesty.
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|Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) in|
The Help (2011)
The queen bee of Jackson and the town's biggest socialite, Hilly Holbrook has it all, a wealthy husband, a beautiful son and an incredible house, but that's just not enough. Hilly will not sit still until she has persuaded all of Jackson to submit to the idea of separate but equal living with the black and white people. With a personality of poisoned honey, Hilly Holbrook is conniving, manipulative and cruel to everyone around her, even her own friends. In Jackson, Mississippi, Hilly is the law and everything, and everyone must fit into her precise mold of quality living. Those that don't pay a terrible price.
Hilly's high opinion of herself gives her a lonely place to live in. She bullies her friend Elizabeth Leefolt mercilessly, comes down on Skeeter for her radical integration beliefs, fires Minnie Jackson just because she though that Minnie was using her guest bathroom and proceeds to lie about her so Minnie can't find a job and above all despises that white trash girl Celia Foote, whom she believes stole her former boyfriend, Johnny from her. In the end though, it all comes back on her. Her arrogance and cruelty slaps her in the face and soon she must take a good hard look in the mirror at the damage that is always going to be right behind her.
Brice Dallas Howard is such an incredible actress that it was so hard to believe that she was playing such a cruel and heartless character. Hilly was a great villain that you hate and despise from the very beginning, there is really no redemption for her unless she decided to change her way of thinking and realize maybe I'm the problem, not everyone else.
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|Aibileen Clark's wise words|
I've almost finished reading the book which is incredible and is able to give much more detail than the movie could, but that's not saying that the movie isn't as good as the book. The movie in itself was beautifully done and acted. Dealing with segregation is never an easy task, dealing with difficult people is never an easy task, dealing with general day to day beliefs that maybe shouldn't be general is never an easy task. Taking a leap of faith, standing up for your beliefs and telling the truth makes all the difficult and hard tasks seem so much smaller and insignificant when you realize the general good that comes from simply doing what's right.