This isn’t a ‘serious’ film; let’s get that straight. Yes, Viola Davis is going to get an Oscar nomination and that will skew people’s perception of the movie but this is, in fact, popcorn drama of the highest order. Based on a novel that book club America loved The Help finds Emma Stone helping the help (see!) to expose the injustices they suffer. It’s not exactly Mississippi Burning but it has its heart in the right place and manages to not take itself too seriously, despite the race issues.
At the heart of the film is another superb performance by Viola Davis is as the wronged maid of Emma Stone’s protagonist’s frenemy (played by a turned up nosed Bryce Dallas Howard). This is a genuinely moving performance and whilst it works within the context of The Help, I can’t help thinking that it deserves a better film around it. Yes, Octavia Spencer’s sassy best friend is amusing but it draws too much on stereotypes (The Octavia Spencer Stereotype) and doesn’t have the same emotional impact as Davis’. Stone flits between these women doing her usual likeable shtick and that’s about enough to glue the comedy and drama together.
This movie banked in America and is bound to bank again here in the UK. It’s surprisingly gender neutral, surprisingly funny and surprisingly easy to watch (despite the titanic 140 minute running time). The simpler you address it, the more you’ll like it because, beneath the beautiful production value, there isn’t a lot going on. Still that’s a harsh criticism of a summer movie that, judging by the bite and verve of the screenplay, was always aiming for fun over heavy.
A sweet film that manages to avoid self-righteousness and delivers a very pleasant cinematic experience. Won’t change the world, but doesn’t need to.
|Starring:||Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and, of course, Jessica Chastain.|
|Running Time:||Wait for it... 140 minutes!|