Monday, March 5, 2012

The Help

Year: 2011
Director: Tate Taylor
Writer: Tate Taylor, Kathryn Stockett
Genre: Drama

I liked The Help. As a mostly comedy with dramatic asides, it has some strong characters and a lovely narrative. There is also a lot wrong with this film, in my eyes. Despite that though it still manages to be a wholly enthralling narrative that kept my attention all the way through. Also, I loved the character of Celia. Yes, I loved her enough to state that in my first paragraph.

Basically in the film you've got a young woman who seems to rebel against every norm in her world. She's not really interested in getting a man - she's getting a job! She's also not taken aback by the idea of African Americans being equal to everyone else. Whatever she drank really should have gotten into the bodies of the other gals, but of course, if it did then we wouldn't have a movie.

Anyway, it's a film about this journalist who wants to get the true stories from "the help", or maids. So she goes for it and slowly gains the trust of the women she wants to interview. It's quite entertaining most of the time, so I'm not sure why exactly it's tagged as a "drama" on IMDB.

There's nothing wrong with a movie having fun, even for a semi-period piece. It just feels kind of bad to watch because of how it seems to push aside the harsh realities of the time. It might have been the 60s but damn if that wasn't practically a world away from where we are now. It was an extremely turbulent period for civil rights and nearly completely glossing over that was a huge failing, in my opinion. Yes, there's are a handful of moments in the film which attempt to bring this reality home. It never quite reaches though. There's a point where a young black woman is beaten by an officer, but then the fear of the moment is quickly dissipated by a new scene filled with patented sass.

The points the film seem to make are filled with good intentions, but that doesn't mean the film itself is pure. To me the things it teaches are that African American maids really were living a mostly fine life. Oh sure, they couldn't even use the same toilets but other than that they just had so much fun gabbing with their friends and making fun of white ladies behind their back. Oh sure, their friends were getting beaten by those who are supposed to protect the town, but what does it really matter when you can bake a pie with poop in it and serve it to your old employer?

Despite the failings that I felt exist because of how it downplayed the reality of the situation, I still found myself captivated by the silly narrative. I laughed at many jokes and liked the ending. I felt the end was actually focused on a maid character, not the journalist, like many have said. It's a great film that you can watch as long as you turn off the analytical part of your brain.

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