The Help [2011] ★★★½

Nothing heats up an Oscar race like an underdog for best picture. On the surface, “The Help” sounds like a movie that’s been done so many times before: the well-to-do white folks and their black servants in a Southern Town in the 1960’s. But it doesn’t take this captivating and steadily surprising movie very long to draw a smile on your face, take a piece of your heart and pull you in deep. “The Help” is a total pleasure, written and directed by Tate Taylor with an incredible eye for detail. The actors are terrific. You’ve got the marvelous Viola Davis (“Doubt”) as Aibileen Clark, the housekeeper who’s helped raise 17 white children for various families but is still mourning the accidental death of her only son. Then there’s Minny, (Octavia Spencer in an Oscar worthy performance), who has to put up with her racist boss (Bryce Dallas Howard). The secret ingredient she includes in her chocolate pie will tickle your funny bone. The film’s main character is Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone), a recent graduate looking for a career in journalism. Her task? Get Aibileen and Minny to confide their feelings about working for white families in a changing South. Stone is a talent to watch; Smart, witty and brave. Right now you probably know her as that girl from “Easy A” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love”. After you see her in “The Help”, you’ll know her as an actress of uncommon subtlety and feeling.

Gorgeously shot by cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt “The Help” encapsulates everything we go to the movies for: laughs, tears and a chance to get lost in another time period. It just might leave you speechless. How can you resist such a film?

Incidentally, I’ve been quoting my favorite line from the movie: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important”. I think I’m going to adopt it as my new motto.

Rating: 3.5/4

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