The Help

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The Help

Run time 137 Minutes. OK for children.

From l, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in “The Help.”

This is a pretty good film, even if it is a chick flick, and even though it’s almost unbearably heavy-handed. Actually, I thought it was pretty excruciating to sit through. Emma Stone gives another magnificent performance as the writer of the novel The Help, about black maids in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1963.

Based on Kathryn Stockett’s big-selling novel of the same name, the film is basically told from the POV of all the black maids who worked for middle to upper class white families in Jackson. Although Stockett claims that her impetus was her relationship with her family’s black maid, Demetrie, Stockett was born in 1969, six years after the setting for her novel, so she could really have no personal knowledge of what happened then.

The villains are all the women of Jackson’s Junior League and their bridge club. Bridge players (and I’m one) might have a defamation lawsuit because they are not shown in a sympathetic light, to say the least.

Emma Stone is the protagonist, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, who returns from college to be outraged at the way her family maid, Constantine (Cicely Tyson), the alter ego for Demetrie, was apparently summarily fired by Skeeter’s mother, Charlotte (Allison Janney). She establishes a relationship with Aibileen (Viola Davis), the maid for her friend Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard, who gives a stunning performance as the heavy), and gets her to start talking for the record about what her subservient life is like. It’s ultimately a feel-good movie with the oppressed blacks getting their revenge.

This is clearly a political movie. but the acting is superb throughout. True, the script (by director Tate Taylor) is clumsy and lacking in subtlety, but this is a movie and he apparently felt he had to make the junior league ladies (and Skeeter’s mother) caricatures in order to create the good guy-bad guy dichotomy. A more nuanced script and story would have been far more effective.

30 Minutes or Less

Run time 83 minutes. Not for Children.

From l, Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari in “30 Minutes or Less.”

This is just another reprehensible, profane film masquerading as a comedy. Oscar®-nominee Jesse Eisenberg wastes his talents on this relatively unfunny tale of a pizza delivery man who has a bomb strapped to his body to get him to rob a bank. What’s worse is that this “comedy” is based on a true incident that occurred in 2003 in which a pizza delivery man with a bomb strapped to his body robbed a bank, asked the police to help him and was then blown up. That’s not funny; it’s a tragedy, and it’s a disgrace that Hollywood wants to make it into a comedy.

The first hour of this is truly dreadful, filled with gutter language and tedious situations. Director Ruben Fleischer and screenwriter Michael Diliberti strain for laughs, mostly by the new school filmmaking gimmick of substituting shocking language for humor.

Eisenberg is an Oscar®-nominee. He should feel an obligation to his craft to avoid junk like this. His appearance in this film degrades his reputation.

The movie finally comes alive in the last half hour when Michael Peña makes his appearance as a hit man from Detroit. But for him, I couldn’t give this more than one swan. He makes the last half hour entertaining. Without him it would be a complete waste of time.

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