I generally don't like reviewing things just after I have seen them because emotions lead to bias which leads to a review I may not necessarily agree with the following day. However, I just got back from The Help and my feelings towards it are not really likely to change, so I figured I'd just go for it while it is still fresh.
I'll admit that I did not read the book when I walked into this film. There are certain films in which I feel alright doing this because I know that neither will really impact my viewing experience. I'm really good at separating books from films and not letting one or the other change the way I feel. Even after seeing the film, I'm not entirely sure if I want to read the book, despite hearing that it is incredible. I do not really know why this is, but I felt like this was just a short snippet I should throw into this review for those of you who may ask. I may read it yet, but I have a tall stack of books to make it through before considering it. Sorry if I have alienated book before film purists, but I feel art can be experienced in any order and still be enjoyable. Do what you want with your lives and all of that. Now, onto the review.
I went into The Help the day after its release knowing absolutely nothing about what others had been saying and with only the trailers explanation on what it was about. (If you, too, know nothing about it, go read the non-spoiler 'plot' on the wikipedia page here since I have a tendency to not really give summaries in my reviews.) I am not ashamed to admit that I will pretty much see any film that Emma Stone decides to take part in and I have not been shaken on that stance yet. I'll let you know once I've seen Crazy, Stupid, Love, I suppose. There is something really incredible about walking into a small town cinema full of middle aged book club lovers, all jabbering excitedly about what they hope from the film - it really gave me perspective on what my friends and I must have looked like on that fateful Deathly Hallows release date last month. With the energy high, I sat back to enjoy what I did not realize would be a nearly two and a half hour film. The best part? I didn't feel for a second that the film was dragging or wonder how much longer it was or anything. I mean, sure, I have a pretty fantastic attention span in cinemas most of the time, but that is pretty damn long for a non-epic film. And it was good.
Some films are appalling. Not because they poorly made, not acted well or terribly written, but because they make us face the reality of who and what we are or once were. In this way, and no other, The Help was just that: appalling. It dealt with sensitive issues with ease and difficulty all at the same time and had you picking sides more excitedly than I ever do when I watch sports movies. This film was carried beautifully by Emma Stone as Skeeter, who *can* do drama brilliantly, and Viola Davis as Aibileen, whose powerful voice also served as narration. Tearing apart 1960s white supremacy in film has never been so badass with them at the forefront. Other particularly impressive roles were that ofJessica Chastain, who played Celia Foote and was just so hilarious and tragic, as well as, believe it or not, the little girl who played Mae Mobley (or, as I just found out, twin girls Eleanor and Emma Henry). They were just heartbreaking.
While there were a few major leads, the writing had you caring for or wishing a rude awakening on even the smallest characters. The only major issue I had with the writing is that sometimes, so much can be said without saying anything and I will never write a review without praising silence. (Although, slight spoilers, there was an absolutely brilliant moment of silence as Aibileen left towards the end). Other than that, each character was full to the brim with personality and life, which i one of the major reasons I felt like I was in the middle of this world for two and a half hours, not sitting in a poorly-cushioned old fashioned theatre chair.
As for actual cinematography, I have to admit I did not notice anything particularly impressive. The score is also not too memorable just a couple hours later. But with the story as rich as it was, these things did not detract from the experience. Though I can see how the filmmakers sort of tried and failed to make the city itself, Jackson, Mississippi, a character in its own right. While the setting was integral, I would not say it was much more memorable outside of the fried chicken one of the characters prepared with such love.
In two sentences for my Flixster account, I wrote the following: Bursting with life, empowerment and honesty, I found The Help to be extraordinarily appalling, in the best way possible, and beautiful. Carried so brilliantly by Emma Stone and Viola Davis, this is a film to remember. Maybe not a must see for everyone, this is definitely for those rich story, character lovers, it is something I'll remember for a while. Let me know what you think if you have seen it!
Days till London: 30.