BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Help
The emotional comedy-drama hits home video...
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Based on the best-selling 2009 novel of the same name by first-time author Kathryn Stockett, The Help reveals an intriguing, interesting, and engaging story of black women serving as "domestic helpers" in white homes in the South (Mississippi) during the 1960s. While the story was only recently written (and thus the accuracy of the fictional tale is at best based on accounts heard second hand by author Stockett), the story itself explores experiences often overlooked and a unique opportunity for these black women to share their knowledge gained from experiences both good and bad.
The film itself follows the story of Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) returning home from college to explore her desire to write. When Skeeter discovers the maid who helped raiser her, Constantine, has quit while she was away at school, she begins to explore the lives of the black women who have helped white families keep house and raise children. While many of the maids are unwilling to share, both Aibileen Clark (a marvelous Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (a brilliant Octavia Spencer) begin to open up to Skeeter and share their stories. Skeeter thus begins her work on a book, Help, revealing to the world these stories of amazing, strong, and passionate black women who help take care of houses and homes not their own.
While often hilarious, at times heartbreaking, and always well-acted, The Help seems to struggle to find itself. It seems to try - sometimes too hard - to balance what it wants to say about race relations and what it wants to reveal about the emotional, dramatic development of its characters. That said, I've personally never read the book so I can not compare the two. However, my mother-in-law has read the book and, from what she's told me, the movie - like most big screen adaptations - fails to live up to the emotional power of the novel upon which it's based, which is sure to leave fans of the book slightly disappointed.
One thing the film has going for it is the powerful ensemble cast, which includes the previously mentioned Emma Stone as the open-minded, progressive writer Skeeter, the super talented Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly Holbrook (the film's antagonist and the town's racist), and the often overlooked screen presence of both Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, two maids who share their unique stories with Skeeter. Both Spencer and Davis perform brilliantly and bring to life their characters with passion. If the film has anything spectacular to bring to film fans, it is these women's performances, which all deserve critic-acclaim.
As for the film itself, the 1080p video transfer is sharp, with bright colors and tight lines. Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track helps bring to life the 1960s Mississippi summertime. As for special features, the 3-disc blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy set includes a few: the feature film on three different formats as well as the 23-minute "From Friendship to Film," a production documentary featuring producer Brunson Green, writer/director Tate Taylor, and author Kathryn Stockett as well as other cast and crew. This concise documentary focuses on the development of the book and story as well as film's setting, characters, and cast. Other special features include a 12-minute "In Their Own Words: A Tribute to the Maids of Mississippi" features writer/director Taylor and actress Spencer speaking with some of the women who inspired the author of the book, 10 minutes of deleted scenes, and Mary J. Blige's music video "The Living Proof."
Overall, The Help is a dramatic and comedy-filled, if not engaging and enjoyable, look at an intriguing story that's been, at least until now, untold to the masses. With amazing performances by a superior cast of super talented women, The Help will no doubt impress many moviegoers with its unique story and marvelous characters.
The Help is rated PG-13 for thematic material and is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley
"Until next time...have FUN with your figures!!"
Jess C. Horsley