Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Help

The Help

The Help
Directed by Tate Taylor

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Product Description

The #1 New York Times bestseller by Kathryn Stockett comes to vivid life through the powerful performances of a phenomenal ensemble cast. Led by Emma Stone, Academy Award®-nominated Viola Davis (Best Supporting Actress, Doubt, 2008), Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help is an inspirational, courageous and empowering story about very different, extraordinary women in the 1960s South who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project — one that breaks society's rules and puts them all at risk. Filled with poignancy, humor and hope — and complete with compelling, never-before-seen bonus features — The Help is a timeless, universal and triumphant story about the ability to create change.

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #1 in DVD
  • Released on: 2011-12-06
  • Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Formats: Color, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Original language: English
  • Subtitled in: English, French, Spanish
  • Running time: 146 minutes
Editorial Reviews
There are male viewers who will enjoy The Help, but Mississippi native Tate Taylor aims his adaptation squarely at the female readers who made Kathryn Stockett's novel a bestseller. If the multi-character narrative revolves around race relations in the Kennedy-era South, the perspective belongs to the women. Veteran maid Aibileen (Doubt's Viola Davis in an Oscar-worthy performance) provides the heartfelt narration that brackets the story. A widow devastated by the death of her son, she takes pride in the 17 children she has helped to raise, but she's hardly fulfilled. That changes when Skeeter (Easy A's Emma Stone) returns home after college. Unlike her peers, Skeeter wants to work, so she gets a job as a newspaper columnist. But she really longs to write about Jackson's domestics, so she meets with Aibileen in secret--after much cajoling and the promise of anonymity. When Aibileen's smart-mouthed friend Minny (breakout star Octavia Spencer) breaches her uptight employer's protocol, Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) gives her the boot, and she ends up in the employ of local outcast Celia (Jessica Chastain, hilarious and heartbreaking), who can't catch a break due to her dirt-poor origins. After the murder of Medgar Evers, even more maids, Minny among them, bring their stories to Skeeter, leading to a book that scandalizes the town--in a good way. Not since Steel Magnolias has Hollywood produced a Southern woman's picture more likely to produce buckets of tears (and almost as many laughs). --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

96 of 101 people found the following review helpful.
5The Help: The best novel adaptation in a loooong time.
By M. Bullions
"Oscar season", as it's typically referred to, is a period of time, usually beginning in late November, and ending in late January. This year, it starts early, with "The Help".

"The Help" is based on the well-known novel by Kathryn Stockett, someone who I had never heard of before discovering this film and book. For the most part, when I hear about a film that I want to see, I try to read the book prior to viewing the movie, to enhance the whole experience. Usually I get bored, or stop mid-way through one of these said books, before I end up watching the movie.

But "The Help" grabbed me. Stockett kept me on a leash, dying to know what happened next, and I ended up finishing its 530 pages in a few sittings. And, I'm glad it did, because "The Help" is not only the best movie I've seen this summer, but it very well could be the best one I see all year.

The film centers on Aibileen, Skeeter and Minny (Davis, Stone and Spencer, respectively) three very different women in Mississippi, in the year 1962. Skeeter is returning from college with a journalism degree, whose beloved childhood black maid Constantine has disappeared, and no one will tell her where she has gone. Aibileen is a maid who has raised 17 white children in her life. The word "maid" is pretty blandly used. She's a nanny to these children, if not a surrogate mother. Her outspoken friend Minny has never been able to keep quiet, or, because of this, hold onto a job very long, and she is hired on the sly by Celia (Chastain), a white-trash rich girl who has some grave secrets of her own. Skeeter decides to write a tell-all book of interviews from the maids of Jackson, Mississippi, which, as you could imagine, was a very taboo, and perhaps even illegal thing to take on in the time of Jim Crow, and segregation.

One of the reasons that this film succeeds is that not a single character is miscast, and there is not a single caricature. In the book, Stockett paints a vivid picture of each character, and the actors clearly got lost in their characters. Emma Stone is becoming a very important actress. I haven't seen her in a role that I didn't love her in. After getting her first notable role in 2009's "Zombieland", and then livening and carrying the otherwise bland teen comedy "Easy A", this is her first dramatic role, as Skeeter, one of the lead characters. While she sometimes blends into the background in this movie, she shines beautifully with the rest of the cast. She's definitely one to watch.

While Stone is great, this movie belongs to Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Davis's Aibileen is perfect. She has a silent sadness about her, a lot of pride, and a great sense of anger, her expressive eyes displaying a silent protest, while never raising her voice the whole film. She handles emotional scenes beautifully, reducing the audience to tears in more than one scene. She's a early in the year front-runner for Best Actress this Oscar season.

Spencer also does a beautiful job as Minny. Octavia Spencer was the original inspiration for the character of Minny, who voiced the character's section in the audio-book. She was clearly made to play this role. She does a lot more for this movie, than just adding comic relief, however, she does plays the comedic side the best. The "terrible awful" that her character does in the book, is made into the funniest thing in the whole movie.

The supporting cast is dead-on too. Bryce Dallas Howard plays the town's snobby ringleader, Hilly. She's absolutely chilling, nailing the evil character. Her mother, played by Sissy Spacek is a hoot. The town's secretive lush, and Minny's boss, Celia, is played by scene-stealing newcomer Jessica Chastain, who wowed earlier this year in "The Tree of Life". She was completely like I envisioned her character in the book. Chastain would be perfect to play Marilyn Monroe. Just saying. There's not enough typing space in this review to describe how much I loved the rest of the supporting cast. Everyone was dead-on.

I was under the assumption that this would be yet another disappointing film of a book loved by many. The reason for this was the director and writer. I had never heard of this Tate Taylor, and because of that, I wasn't sure that I trusted him. He had a large part in making this movie all that it was. One of the big reasons that "The Help" works as a movie is because it feels authentic. It was filmed in Mississippi, where it's based, it is set in the 1960's, and every feeling about the movie hits the right note.

I later discovered that Taylor was a childhood friend of the book's author. Not some Hollywood hack. I forget the many disappointing film adaptations of books I loved that were made by the Hollywood elite. "The Da Vinci Code" by Ron Howard, "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Rob Marshall, "Eat, Pray, Love" by Ryan Murphy. Enough said. After seeing this film, I couldn't imagine anyone better-suited to making the film.

What is special about this film is that it is not what a lot of people will probably write it off as. It's not a film designed to make audiences feel less "white guilt", and it isn't about how black folks need white ones to succeed. It's about good-hearted people wanting to make a change to a world that is unjust. It avoids the usual sentimentality and melodrama that typically plagues this kind of film. I don't know how, but it succeeds in that, like I thought it wouldn't.

While some changes are (intelligently) made from the book, it's almost a scene-for-scene adaptation of the book. Some things are different, because they need to be, and things are a little more concise, yet it's almost like watching an abridged version of the book, onscreen. It will stir up emotions in you that you didn't know you had. At the ending of this film, in a packed house, there was a thunderous applause. Almost everyone in the theater stayed seated through out the ending credits. I cannot remember a time where a movie evoked such emotion from its audience, that it wasn't until after the credits had ended that people actually started walking out. This is gripping stuff. Don't miss it.

Grade: A+

102 of 117 people found the following review helpful.
5Hot Humid Sensual South & an Oscar brews faster than sweet iced-tea
By Harold Wolf
UPDATE for week of DVD release:
Even as a re-watch 4 months later, this story is powerful. If it doesn't win awards, it will put civil rights back decades. It was the two 'help' leads of Davis and Spencer that stole the spotlight. Will they get what's deserved? Regardless, this is still the movie of the year to watch. And re-watch. One to own, not rent.
The only drawback with the DVD is the sparse bonus material. 4 min. of 2 deleted, and a 5 min. music video of one of the film's songs. Pathetically weak bonus, but then it is a 5.5 star film. Oh yes, some will complain, as the advertising as a bonus and prior to seeing the feature runs as long as the bonus material total. Remember back when people started renting and buying VHS tapes because they got fed up with all the excessive television advertising? You can fast-forward through the ads.
Oh yes, there are SUBTITLES.


We attended the opening matinee; we'll view it again, that good. Is `The Help' the soul of 60s era race relations? This worthy film based on Kathryn Stockett's #1 best-seller is equally a first-class view as true for the read. The story of 3 daring Mississippi women is as absorbing as any you'll see this year. The plot is writing a book which attempts to tell the truth about B/W relations in the city of Jackson, between wealthy whites and `the help'; but doing it anonymously. Without being fired or lynched.

There is humor in the way the Jackson Belle socialites operate, and eventually react to the book publication. Bryce Dallas Howard is the personification of Bad Girl, Hilly. Although beautiful, I loathed Hilly in the film and book, as you are supposed to. And Jessica Chastain (Murder on the Orient Express) has all it takes to be the scene stealer while playing Celia. Truly believable!
Humor erupts in how the help secretly reacts to their treatment. There's sadness at some injustice.
Viola Davis plays a slimmer/sexier Aibileen than was my mental image while reading the book. Octavia Spencer is right on as Minny. Both girls pack their roles with perfection.
The film has intrigue through the months of secret interviews.
There's a mystery related to Skeeter's (Emma Stone) own childhood maid's story, which is a larger part of the story in the book.
Skeeter, Aibileen, & Minny are the key book writers. The casting is near perfection. Should be some Oscar nominations someplace.
Some other stars too, like, Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, & Mary Steenburgen (Proposal, Joan of Arcadia).

I remember reading the book and doing it as quickly as possible toward the end; and praying that all the `help' have a happy ending, but expecting some casualties. With the movie, it is evident when the story is climaxing, and then you just wish that you could make it last another hour or two. An excellent story, but then we all knew that from the book.
It is a tribute to the story that you forget it is fiction. How much is real, a docu-drama of the early 1960's of the south (& north)? We need reviews from the real-life `help' of the early 60's. Only they know!

If you view only one film this year...this should be it. See it soon, & as the film's dialogue states, "Before the whole civil rights thing blows over." That line brought a theater audience LOL.
As Aibileen believes, quoted from the book, "We done something brave and good here. And Minny, maybe she don't want a be deprived a any a the things that go along with being brave and good."

54 of 61 people found the following review helpful.
5Not the movie you think it is
By Steven Carrier
"The Help" works as well as it does because it doesn't offer easy answers. This lovely and sometimes extraordinary film is not concerned with big sermons about clivil rights, religion or easy to swallow messages. The film is simply about behavior; how we should act, morally, towards other people, no matter who they might be. This thematic line is structured nicely throughout the film by zeroing in on a select group of people. This was a smart move since the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s is just too large a subject to truly flesh out in a 2 hour film. Because the film is about actual characters instead of predisposed, prepackaged lessons, the audience can take with them what they choose from the story (none of the characters have a major epiphany, each just starts to become aware of their behavior and effects, both good and bad- they all have so much more life to live). Surprisingly the film rarely gets melodramatic, and when it does it almost seems cheep and easy. Thankfully the films few flaws (structure, pacing, some silly dialogue here and there- "You broke her heart...!") can be overlooked due to the tremendous performances. Each actress is exceptional in their own ways with the wonderful Viola Davis stealing the film. Emma Stone is reliable here as always and proves that she can be funny and carry dramatic weight in the same film. I have always considered Bryce Dallas Howard to be a very accomplished actress and hopefully her scathing, pointed work will be recognized. Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain find a tender chemistry all their own. I have to say that "The Help" really, truly surprised me. I have never read the mega-selling novel from which it's based but I can tell you the film is a beautiful testament to American history and is a great display for some truly fine acting. For those who are turned off by sermonizing, preachy, obnoxious message movies (like myself), "The Help" is far from that. This is a tender film about real emotions and a subject that is rarely discussed in film today.


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