TSD Memphis

Wed04162014

Entertainment

‘The Help’ delivers on ‘truth and reconciliation’ journey

Millicent Bolton and Flo Roach at a screening for the movie The Help
Viola Davis as Minny in the movie The Help
The help movie poster
Kathryn Stockett made an auspicious debut with the publication of “The Help,” a poignant period piece examining the unquestioned relationships of entitled, white socialites and their deferential black maids in Mississippi.
 
Two Memphis actresses – Millicent Bolton (second from left) and and Flo Roach (center) are cast members in the movie “The Help.” Both were honored Wednesday night during a “Red Carpet” private showing at the Paradiso Malco Theatre, 584 South Mendenhall. Event proceeds will benefit the RISE Foundation of Memphis. (Photo by Shirley Jackson)

“The Help”

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and ethnic slurs.
Running time: 111 Minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

Kathryn Stockett made an auspicious debut in 2009 with the publication of “The Help,” a poignant period piece examining the unquestioned relationships of entitled, white socialites and their deferential black maids in Mississippi. Although the story is set in the author’s hometown of Jackson in the early ’60’s, her best-selling novel is more fictional than autobiographical in nature.

 
 Viola Davis as Minny in “The Help.” (Photos courtesy Dreamworks Studios)

 
The screen adaptation unfolds from the point of view of Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), a long-suffering nanny left bone-weary by a life spent “lookin’ after white babies.” Born in 1911, she is currently raising little Mae Mobley Leefolt (Emma and Eleanor Henry), a recent addition to a prominent Southern family.

As narrator, Aibileen is able to admit to the audience the existence of a “bitter seed” planted deep inside of her soul since the recent death of her only son. Still, she is not one to risk her job by allowing her face to reveal even a trace of that resentment in the presence of her employers. Instead, the grammatically-challenged domestic dutifully nourishes the impressionable toddler in her care by regularly reciting the same spiritual mantra she’s shared with all 17 other children entrusted to her over the years, namely, “You is kind; you is smart; you is important.”

By contrast, Aibileen’s relatively-mercurial best friend, Minny (Octavia Spencer), is not nearly as stoic, which explains why she frequently finds herself fired for insubordination. After all, the strictly-enforced housekeeper code of conduct calling for no spanking, touching or sassing white folks, and especially no using their bathrooms tends to test her patience.

Passive-aggressive Minny is lucky even to be alive after her latest outburst, which led to her being dismissed by Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), an insufferable shrew who only got what she deserved. Minny next lands a position with Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), a newcomer ostracized by other well-to-do ladies because of her white trash roots.

The plot thickens, upon the arrival back in town of cotton plantation heiress Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone). Having spent time away from the racist region, the aspiring journalist now finds herself offended by a way of life everyone else around her seems to take for granted.

Feeling for the plight of the long-suffering black servants who had raised her and her friends so lovingly despite the discrimination, Skeeter decides to write a book recounting what life in Jackson is like from their perspective. So, starting with Aibileen and Minny, she starts approaching sisters to cooperate with the project, which is no mean feat, given that this is Mississippi at a time when it was often fatal to challenge the status quo.

Directed by actor-turned-director Tate Taylor, “The Help” is a compelling tale of survival that paints a plausible picture of the subtle tensions between blacks and whites simmering just below the still surface during the waning days of Jim Crow segregation. To its credit, the production revisits the shameful era without indulging the temptation to resort to either propaganda or melodrama, unless you count an act of sweet revenge reminiscent of the coup de grace delivered in “Fried Green Tomatoes” (1991).

As for the cast, Viola Davis is likely to earn another Oscar nomination for her nonpareil performance as the anguished Aibileen. And other members of the A-list ensemble prove equally effective, especially Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Emma Stone in pivotal roles, as well as support players Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Cicely Tyson, Allison Janney and Aunjanue Ellis.

Truth and reconciliation belatedly achieved, like a dream deferred.

(To see a trailer for “The Help,” visit: http://thehelpmovie.com/us/#s=videos&v=1.)


 
 The “Red Carpet” private showing of “The Help” drew a packed house at the Paradiso Malco Theatre on Wednesday night. The event honored two Memphis cast members – Millicent Bolton and Flo Roach – with the proceeds benefiting The Rise Foundation, whose president/CEO is Linda L. Williams (standing). RISE has assisted low-income families in building and sustaining $5.7 million in financial assets (homes, cars, computers, educational benefits and small businesses). (Photo by Shirley Jackson)

  
 Housekeeping is front and center in “The Help,” which examines the lives of 60’s-era domestics in Mississippi. The activities at Wednesday night’s “Red Carpet” private showing at the Paradiso Malco Theatre included a best-apron contest. Event proceeds will benefit the RISE Foundation of Memphis. (Photos by Shirley Jackson)

 
 Gale Jones Carson (standing, left) and Tajuan Stout Mitchell (standing right) were the hosts during a “Red Carpet” private showing of “The Help” at the Paradiso Malco Theatre on Wednesday night. Mayor A C Wharton was among those who gathered for the event, which honored two Memphis cast members – Millicent Bolton (left) and Flo Roach. Event proceeds will benefit the RISE Foundation of Memphis. (Photo by Shirley Jackson)

 
 Memphis cast members Millicent Bolton (left) and Flo Roach of “The Help,” along with The Rise Foundation of Memphis President/CEO Linda L. Williams at the “Red Carpet” private showing of the film at the Paradiso Malco Theatre on Wednesday night. Event proceeds will benefit the RISE Foundation. (Photo by Shirley Jackson)


Add comment


Security code
Refresh