The Help is the kind of film I find unsettling because it speaks about an unfortunate and uncomfortable time in US History, the South and racism and segregation in the 1960’s. The Help focuses on a young woman named Skeeter Phelen who desperately wants to become a journalist. She decides that the best thing to do is write about what she has experienced. Skeeter notices that the housemaids and cooks are not treated with respect and she decides to interview these African-American maids about their occupation and the duties those women perform which she wants to turn into a published book about the work The Help performs.
Emma Stone embodies the character of Skeeter Phelen and while she’s headstrong, genuine, and kind it upset me greatly that the film took so long to explain where those personality traits came from. Skeeter was parented by a maid named Constantine Jefferson played by the legendary Cicely Tyson. This surrogate mother serves as the inspiration for her book. The beauty of Constantine is that she teaches Skeeter to value her own self worth. Abeline and another housekeeper Minnie replicate the idea of white young women knowing their own self worth by telling children that they are kind, they are smart, and they are important. Abeline works for a trophy wife and completely nonexistent mother named Jolene French and Minnie works for a racist woman named Hilly Holbrook. Both Abeline and Minnie experience problems with their employers that showcase the theme that they can’t change the social status they have. Skeeter wants racial equality for The Help but she also is keenly aware of the fact that the housemaids she wants to interview don’t feel seen, heard, or understood because of the racism they experience on a daily basis.
The Help works because it tackles prejudice and racism as it occurred in the South without dramatizing the experience to a degree that would offend moviegoers. The strongest players in this film are Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. The friendship of those two characters is the glue that holds the entire film together. The performanccter’s issue is revealed it makes the story more realistic and believable. There is no doubt in my mind that racism and segregation are tough subjects to tackle and this film works hard not to emotionally move us but to inform us of how society has and hasn’t changed since then. The Help tells a story that is heartbreaking and original and it left me asking where and how we gained the level of humanity we have today.