The failure of America’s first black president to see the unsatisfactory directions in which he is taking the country (e.g., health-insurance premiums are rising and entrepreneurs decline to start businesses because of Obamacare) has driven the minds behind The Help (2011) to earnestly focus on the past and a relentlessly racist Mississippi. That’s Hollywood for you.
Based on a best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, Tate Taylor’s film presents wise and noble black maids of the early ’60s and, more often, white middle-class women too many of whom are flibbertigibbets and dopey conformists. I said “too many” of them, not “all” of them. Exceptions are Emma Stone’s Skeeter and the lady played by Sissy Spacek–that is, the mother of the outrageously racist Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard).
Obama aside, it is doubtless true that Hollywood also wished to turn what I assume to be an entertaining book into an entertaining movie. The Help tells a juicy yarn, even as it gives the story of Skeeter and her new boyfriend short shrift.
Emma Stone is quite good in the film; I’d like to see perfection from her because I believe she’s capable of it. Octavia Spencer has real appeal as black maid Minnie; Viola Davis is authoritatively excellent as black maid Aibileen. Howard proffers a bit too much on-the-surface acting, but this is probably partly the fault of writer-director Taylor since he doesn’t quite know what he’s doing in his depiction of white women. His film is almost misogynistic.