The Help (2011) Director: Tate Taylor
The story of The Help comes from the best-selling novel of the same name. It takes place during the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi. It was nominated for four Academy Awards.
It tells the story of “Skeeter” Phelan, a graduate of Ole Miss, as she tries to document black and women and their experiences providing service to white families – they are “the help.” Predictably, white southerners are portrayed as vicious and cruel towards their maids. The central conflict stems from when one maid refuses to go out and use the outhouse built for the service during a storm, and instead uses the indoor bathroom. She is framed for theft and dismissed, and thus she gets back at her mistress with a “terrible awful” act of baking her own excrement into a cake and feeding it to her. The publishing of the book causes quite a stir, and in the end the main character wind up pursuing their own independent work, one with dreams of becoming a writer.
The tired Hollywood narrative of the all-powerful villains attempting to crush the noble but powerless victims is all-too common among contemporary films. As to be expected in our present day and age, certain academic quarters found this film offensive, but these resentful voices can largely be ignored. To be sure, The Help is a good albeit predictable film. This is not really a film worth returning to.