Wednesday, 22 February 2012

THE HELP

Last night, I finally got to see The Help, and I was incredibly impressed.

Set in the 1960s, aspiring writer Skeeter (Emma Stone) decides she wants to write a book about the experiences of black maids who serve white families and raise their children, but aren't even allowed to use their toilets. At first, nobody will talk to her, but finally Aibileen (Viola Davis) decides to tell her story, and soon everyone wants to be involved.

The Help is a rare film - it's both genuinely moving and very funny. I expected the first, but not the second. It's also quite scary in places. Not in the way that a horror film is scary, but I found it astonishing and quite scary that people less than fifty years ago believed that black people had different diseases to white people and had to "do their business outside." I like to think most people can see beyond skin colour nowadays, and it was shocking to me that people really felt that strongly not that long ago.

I'm an Emma Stone fan, it has to be said. In fact, if I'm being honest, Stone's casting is one of the main reasons I was interested in seeing the film to begin with, but Octavia Spencer steals the show as non-nonsense main Minny, who goes from working for Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) to her enemy Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain). She deserves every award she's won for the film, and I hope she gets the Oscar, too, although I wouldn't be unhappy to see Chastain win it either.

There was only one problem with the film, and you'll probably think I'm crazy, but it really did bug me. At one point, Skeeter - a writer - is using a typewriter for the Junior League's newsletter, and the camera zooms in on what she's written. Which would be fine, except there's a misplaced apostrophe. She writes "the Holbrook's house," when in fact she means the "Holbrooks' house," the house belonging to Mr and Mrs Holbrook. I know I shouldn't let these things bother me, but it really did. If in doubt, she could have simply said "the Holbrook house" and been done with it.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone, it's a truly excellent film. A solid story which is both heartbreaking and hysterical, with brilliant performances all round. I will say that it's quite a long film, but I didn't realise this until the end when I looked at the time. I was so engaged that I didn't notice it went on for an impressive 2 hours and 25 minutes, and it's very rare for anything to hold my attention for that long. It deserves every award it's won and then some. Having seen both this film and The Artist, the two films that seem to be cleaning up at this year's Oscars, I really have to say that this film is the better of the two.

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