Missy & Molly: Movie Marauders Seek “Help”

By Missy Katner

Lumen Assistant Editor


By Molly Grosskreutz

Assistant A&E Editor

MK: The movie opens with a ques­tion: What does it feel like to raise a white child, when your own child’s at home being looked after by some­body else? Based on the bestsell­ing novel, “The Help” centers on the seething society of 1960s Mis­sissippi. A young aspiring reporter (Emma Stone) wants nothing to do with the professional husband-hunting of her privileged friends. Instead she focuses on her own project: interviewing the maids who work in their homes.

MG: Lovely summary. Well, I shouldn’t say lovely, because it’s not like this is “The Notebook” or something. Accurate summary. I’m glad you brought up the question that opened the movie. Usually I raise an eyebrow when movies feel the need for a voice-over narration at the beginning, but this one actu­ally worked. I don’t have kids (yet), but it is impossible not to immedi­ately side with the maids.

MK: I thought it worked too. Never having read the book, I came to this movie having no idea what to ex­pect. Regardless of whether it was a faithful adaptation or not, this was a highly entertaining film. Women empowerment! Civil Rights! Victory of the underdog! If you’re a sucker for those things, “The Help” is one of those movies you can’t help but enjoy.

MG: Confession: I haven’t read the book either (how did I miss the sum­mer bandwagon?). But! This is a film that can completely stand alone. If you’re looking for a meaningful, poignant and moving movie experi­ence, this will do it for you and then some.

MK: For me, the success of this movie can be attributed to the strong performances by the ensemble of ac­tors, particularly Viola Davis, who plays Aibileen, a kind maid frus­trated with the injustices she sees around her. The movie begins with an interview—cold, informal. But it also piques your interest in Aibi­leen’s story.

MG: Agreed. Davis shines in this, even in her unspectacular gray-collared maid garb. I think some of the most powerful moments of this movie were when Davis was by herself, just…emoting. In a convinc­ingly stoic, world-weary way.

MK: Other standouts were Bryce Dallas Howard as the “perfect” (perfectly demented!) housewife and Octavia Spencer as her torment­ed maid, Minny.

MG: There’s no doubt this movie was well-cast. Bryce Dallas Howard was unflinchingly icy. I’m actually let down that she never underwent any sort of soul-searching or en­lightenment…but then again every movie needs a villain. Octavia Spen­cer was hilarious. Words of advice to those of you who will go see this: watch her eyes whenever she’s in a scene. They’re HUGE and crazy, in the best possible way.

MK: Emma Stone made a fine, eager idealist, although, at times, I felt that she instinctively dipped back into her typecast sarcasm. My own per­sonal favorites were the small but brilliant parts of Sissy Spacek and Allison Janney as aging mothers constantly devalued by their very own daughters.

MG: Emma Stone. Strong, strong performance, hate the ringlets. Speaking of ringlets, let’s briefly touch on the hair in this movie. 1960s housewife hair. Gel, weird-flippy action going on, headbands, beehives….ahhh the glory days. On that note, props to the costume and make-up department on this. There’s no wondering when exactly this takes place.

MK: I loved the design of this mov­ie! From the sea foam telephones to the soda shop, I doubt even the 60s looked that 60s. The only decid­edly weak part of the movie to me was the storyline with Jessica Chas­tain. She played a well-intentioned, somewhat floozy woman who iden­tified with her maid as one cast out and disrespected by the high society. It turned into a feel-good tangent that felt very out of place.

MG: It was over the top. And how is she emotionally stable and function­al after what she’s been through? That was a weird subplot. Probably better executed in the book.

MK: There are genuinely touching moments in the film. Although Ai­bileen deeply dislikes the women she works for, she gives her boss’ children the love and warmth they wouldn’t receive otherwise. It makes you want to believe in the goodness and unity of people again—until you realize that those children prob­ably will grow up to treat “the help” as owned property, just like their parents. Fuzzy feelings over.

MG: I teared up once or twice…not going to lie. Any film that can do that to me has done something right. There’s another thing I want to bring up, too. I thought this film did a really nice job of showing the complexity of relationships between women. On one hand, you have the maids, who stand in solidarity with each other and help each other out, unconditionally. On the other hand, you have the white elitist house­wives with their superficial bridge nights, who thrive on gossip. I real­ly appreciated the contrast between each friendship circle.

MK: I think the movie, which opened really strongly, kind of lost itself at the end. It is hard to imagine that a film that deals with such emo­tionally-charged themes such as ra­cial tension, domestic abuse, miscar­riage, and child abandonment could leave the viewer feeling so pleasant and light-hearted. The film did not really fully immerse itself in these is­sues, opting to skim right over them. The scruple I have with this movie is that although was highly enjoyable, perhaps it should have sought to be more challenging.

MG: Now that I think of it, yeah, tonally this film was very sunshine-y…and it shouldn’t be. I mean come on, in the 30-second TV trailer they use the song “Brighter Than the Sun” by Colbie Caillat! Definitely Hollywood-ified. Even so, I really enjoyed this film overall. This is more than a social commentary, this is also a film about relationships, re­gardless of time period.

Final Verdict

MK: The acting is superb. Thumbs up.

MG: This will be a very important film, for a very long time. Thumbs up.

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