You don’t find many movies that make you laugh and cry at the same time but The Help is one of them. It is a story set at the beginning of the civil rights movement and told from the maids’ point of view.
The main character Eugenia, or Skeeter, has just graduated from college with dreams of working in publishing. She returns home and begins working on the local newspaper writing a household tips column. Since she doesn’t know anything about cleaning she asks her friend’s maid to help her. She observes a lot of mistrust between her white friends and their colored maids. After talk at her bridge club turns to a campaign for separate toilets for the maids, she asks Aibileen Clark, who is helping her with the tips column, how she feels about that. Skeeter eventually convinces Aibileen to help her write a book from the maids’ point of view. At first there is great resistance within the maid community for fear of retribution and going against old southern taboos. As tensions mount between the races, however, the need to be heard overcomes their fears.
Since I am a child of the 60’s, this movie brought back a lot of memories—some good and some bad. One of my mother’s friends had a maid named Coco (how appropriate) who oversaw the children. I thought that was strange, why didn’t their mother do that? The movie also shows the conflicted feelings of love and servitude between the maids, the children and their mothers. Skeeter was raised by her maid in place of her absentee mother and is very disappointed when she returns from college to learn her beloved maid is no longer with them. The mystery behind her sudden disappearance drives Skeeter to continue her book.
The movie is full of southern bells and bitches you both love and hate. Each one is an interesting character, in her own right, and her maid and their relationship adds another dimension. The movie also includes handy tips on housekeeping and cooking; and, just wait until you find out the secret recipe for chocolate pie!
The movie is based on a book by the same name and is written by first time writer, Kathryn Stockett, who was turned down by 60 literary agents. (Note to self—pull out that manuscript and begin sending it out again.)
I predict you will hear more about this movie as awards season approaches. It is warm and touching and will make you cheer and jeer. It is populated with interesting characters portrayed by excellent actresses. What more can you ask for? I give this an A+.
- Marshall Fine: HuffPost Review: The Help (huffingtonpost.com)