By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
“The Help” is based on Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 best selling
novel of the same name. I thoroughly
enjoyed the book. Even though it is a fast read, it is a great read.
It is Jackson, Mississipi, in 1962.
Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) returns home to her privileged
life in Jackson, Mississipi. All her friends are
married with children and following the paths of their mother’s before them,
they have hired maids, or “the help”. These are African American women who have
served these families for generations, with great love and personal sacrifice.
And for what? Often for very low wages and to be mistreated.
Skeeter tries to get a job in New York but an editor tells
her to get experience. She is hired at the local paper to write household
hints, about which she knows nothing. So she asks “the help.”
She begins with Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) who tells the
little girl she cares for, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” But
the child is chubby and her mother is embarrassed by her.
Meanwhile, Minnie (Octavia Spencer) manages to get herself
fired by the horrible rumor monger Holly Holbrook, who heads the local women’s
society. Minnie’s sweet revenge is priceless. Sissy Spacek plays Mrs. Walter,
Hilly’s mother. She is in the early stages of dementia, and she gets Hilly,
too, with hilarious élan.
The rest of the maids are unwilling to tell their stories
because they fear retribution. But an event galvanizes them. When the book is
published, you can imagine the reaction.
The cast is filled
with the finest African American actresses of our day, beginning with Cicely
Tyson, as Constantine, the maid who brought up Skeeter. Emma Stone seems
everywhere this summer, and she is credible and spirited.
Yes, the white women are caricatures as contrasted with “the
help.” And the film looks almost too pretty to tell stories of such heartbreak
But we get the point. Racism, white on white, too—and
domestic abuse—is with us today, hidden behind closed doors.
“The Help” is a tribute to human dignity, faith, and
forgiveness. It is relevant, engaging,
and entertaining. It will take you by the heart.
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