Wednesday, August 17, 2011


They say that in the darkness of the past we will always see the light of the future, and that is certainly evident in "The Help," the movie adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel.  I tried and tried and tried to read this book. As a matter of fact, a week before the movie came out, I started to read it again as I was expecting to see the movie. No matter how I try, though, I just couldn't get into it. So I went into the movie with only a vague idea of what it is about - black maids working for white families in the 60s in the South, specifically Jackson, Mississippi. It's  a pretty straightforward story, it's actually a couple of pretty straightforward stories of the unlikely rebellion of black maids fed up with how they are treated. A young white lady, played by Emma Stone, stirs up the rebellion by publishing these stories in an anonymously-written book. This plot is very close to my heart, as I grew up, and was raised, by one of our maids. However, my family never looked at them as maids, but more like extended family members. So this kind of story, theoretically, is much cliched. While historically this really happened, I was dreading the woe-is-me angle of these kinds of stories. And Viola Davis does a pretty terrific less-is-more version of woe-is-me. Understated and restrained, she reminds me of the iconic actress Nora Aunor, who specializes in that kind of acting style. (Interestingly, one of Aunor's iconic roles is of a maid in 'Atsay')  As a take-no-prisoners maid, though, Octavia Spencer gives a counterpart showy scene stealing performance. Between the two, there is a magnificent ying and yang that I predict will get hers and hers Oscar nominations. I wish the balance of the movie's tone was better. It's slightly off - after a scene where the activist Medgar Evans is assassinated, come lighthearted fares, and it waters down its gravity. Some people have written editorials about how this movie just makes white people feel better, without truly caring about black history, and I do understand that point, though I am much too unlearned about specifics in Black History. See this movie for the performances, at the very least. These names are bound to be honored early next year.

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