THE HELP  movie review
February 5, 2012 · Print This Article
Even though I had read negative things about THE HELP and only all of a sudden decided to watch it this evening, I came away from the movie liking it much more than I expected because of the chemistry, both friendly and hostile, between the characters.
When I first heard the title “THE HELP” months ago, I was fascinated by it because I thought “help” was referring to the action of help itself. I thought, what could be this help and what might it be needed for and where is it coming from? It sounded supernatural. Once I learned “help” was a noun referring to people who work in homes as maids, etc., I was like, oh, yeah, that sounds like a more common usage of the term. Never dawned on me at first though.
What the movie actually is about is a young white woman returning from college with aspirations to be a writer and a deep love for her black maid/nanny that raised her. The surprising dismissal of her nanny by her mother sparks her journalistic ambitions into what do maids really think about their work, how they are treated and their position in society.
To me the movie was about what is real and what is fake. The lives the white mothers were living seemed extraordinarily empty, fake. Like, how could they wake up and do absolutely nothing each and every day? It just does not seem real to outsource motherly love and care of their children to their maids, especially when the thought of their maids using the same toilets as them utterly disgusts them, yet they are ok with those same maids hugging and holding their children all day! How this absurdity never became crystal clear to these white mothers is beyond me.
THE HELP reminded me of my time abroad where I realized that obasans, azumas, middle aged moms were the backbone of society. Men may be running the government (somehow), but take away these women, and everything would fall apart.
Seeing the work the maids did in THE HELP, I really respected the real world skills they have. I can setup a wireless printer, but what is that compared to being able to run a household?
Another example of the real and the fake in THE HELP is the contrast between the relationships of the young white wives and the maids. The white wives just have shallow lunches together and hold totally for show charity events. The maids are literally leaning on each other, sharing real emotion, real life. I liked seeing Minny and Aibileen look out for each other.
The criticism I had heard of THE HELP is that it is just another movie with white people helping black people. That why could the maids have not just written the book on their own? Seeing the movie and knowing the publishing industry, it would have been impossible for Aibileen to get the book published on her own without Skeeter. Skeeter had the contact in New York (key to getting anything done, knowing someone). Skeeter got the women to be willing to talk in the first place. So that criticism is not valid I think.
My reservations about movies on this topic is that it is easy to elicit emotion from audiences by showing racism. I also do not watch medical TV dramas since all you have to do it put a sick kid in jeopardy, instant drama, which is too easy I feel. However, I feel THE HELP does not rely on showing acts of racism alone to make the audience feel. The aforementioned relationships between the maids and also the few white people who have real emotions give the movie its heart. Thus, I ended up being pleasantly surprised by THE HELP.