Tuesday, January 17, 2012

DVD Review: The Help

Based on a critically acclaimed book that, as usual, I've never read The Help has been repeatedly accused of being yet another 'white people fix everything for black people' film, ala The Blind Side. And while that's not an entirely untrue accusation, it manages to function quite a bit better than The Blind Side, while not being without it's own set of flaws.

The gist of the story is a woman returns home from college in 1963 with aspirations of being a writer. She discovers the horrible treatment of the black maids, primarily based about them being forced to use a different toilet in the house they're working in. She begins writing the titular book about their life stories.

The primary point of the movie are the acting, followed by the writing and in those respects it succeeds admirably and acceptably, respectively. The biggest standouts are Viola Davis and Jessica Chastain (who has seriously been in an absurd number of great things this year) but Octavia Spencer does an excellent job too. Emma Stone does a solid job, but she winds up being a bit of a cipher in her own movie, moving through most of the events with very little in the way of the a character arc, especially compared to the more complicated, interesting characters (it doesn't help that she keeps dropping her accent). Bryce Dallas Howard does an okay job with a villain role, as does Allison Janey as a secondary character. The script is fine, mostly concentrating on character turns and world building than plot twists.

The problems are mostly from the directorial side, with it almost feeling a bit well, paint by numbers. The checklist of things that have to be there for a movie like this is fully filled out (stock historical footage? Check. References to famous events? Check.) The camera work, with the exception of one really nice pan, is pretty bland. But still, it's a functional, if not exceptionally unique, film. So if you've got the inclination...yeah I guess it could be worth a rent.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he really should get around to reading some of these books.

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