In dire need of The Help itself
Kathryn Stockett’s started out as a sleeper hit in 2009, and now it’s hit the big screen in all its unfashionable glory. Tate Taylor directs in this late adaptation of the Stockett’s original novel, affectionately titled The Help. Revolving around the viewpoints of Skeeter (Emma Stone), Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer), the film examines the writing of a controversial book detailing the oppression of coloured people during the early-60s civil rights movement in Mississippi.
So here lies The Help’s weakness; glossy, sugarcoated and tediously drawn out at two hours and seventeen minutes. Arguably, it is as insultingly insensitive and ironically racist about itself by throwing in every outlandish stereotype about black people and subtly distancing itself from its engagement of its own themes.
It may sound crass, but for an idea that had that much potential to take an insightful perspective on issues that still trouble us today, it squanders all of it. Somehow it’s owed to the fact that the characters slur about in their backwater Southern accents without actually making any sense at all. Davis offers a compelling performance as Aibileen, demonstrating similar flair to her role in Traffic back in 2000. Other than that, the ridiculous and off-putting acting by the rest of the cast is enough to turn the film inside out.
And let’s give Taylor a good pat on the back for turning itself from something that could have coined every idea of racism into one that just outright personifies it. If the actors were able to drop the attitude of ‘my-mamma-didn’t-raise-no-fool’ and leave out the idea of fried chicken, The Help would have soared with potential. But sadly, it didn’t. In trying to show racism is bad, it becomes racism itself.
In the end it bears a striking resemblance to the Censored Eleven; in trying to highlight the experiences during the cultural period, it only serves to lampoon itself in a way that becomes both offensive and juvenile.