I like movies that transport me into a world distinctly different from mine, and Taylor Tate’s The Help, based on Kathryn Stockett’s novel, did. It took me to Mississippi during the 1960s when the word ‘Negro’ was not a slur, and when all a black woman could hope to achieve was to be a maid in a rich white home. I also liked the movie because it presented white and black America of the time with equanimity that’s colored in candor, humor, and wit. The black and white characters both have their share of skeletons to hide, and Tate indulges these characters by letting them be exactly who they are: at times shallow, sometimes wicked, oftentimes insecure, even downright evil, but overall very real. There is Minny (Octavia Spenser) and then there’s Skeeters (Emma Stone), two undaunted women, one black one white, both witty and winsome and who enchant the audience while making good of the worst of situations. Viola Davis who plays the silent yet solid Aibileen, the black maid whose story is the first of many to go public in a NYC newspaper, whose stoicism is in sharp contrast to Minny’s effervescence; yet both so real. Not to be outdone, the ‘white’ characters are just as delectable; the overtly segregationist ‘Hilly’ and the socially ostracized bottle blond “Celia’ are a treat to watch, especially as they outdo each other in petty pursuits.
The movie, though set in the times of social segregation, deals with race relations in a lighter mode yet sends a clear message decrying racial discrimination of the 60s. The Help provides for two hours of witty and wholesome entertainment.