The Help (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tate Taylor|
|Produced by||Chris Columbus
|Screenplay by||Tate Taylor|
|Based on||The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
Bryce Dallas Howard
|Music by||Thomas Newman|
|Editing by||Hughes Winborne|
Imagenation Abu Dhabi
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios
|Running time||146 minutes|
The Help is a 2011 American drama film directed and written by Tate Taylor, and adapted from Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel of the same name. Featuring an ensemble cast, the film is about a young white woman, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, and her relationship with two black maids, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson during Civil Rights era America (the early 1960s). Skeeter is a journalist who decides to write a book from the point of view of the maids (referred to as "the help"), exposing the racism they are faced with as they work for white families.
Set in Jackson, Mississippi, it stars Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Ahna O'Reilly, Chris Lowell, Sissy Spacek, Mike Vogel, Cicely Tyson, LaChanze, and Allison Janney. Produced by DreamWorks Pictures and distributed by Disney's Touchstone Pictures label, the film opened to positive reviews and became a box-office success with a gross of $211.6 million against its budget of $25 million.
In February 2012, the film received four Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress for Davis, Best Supporting Actress for Chastain, and a win for Best Supporting Actress for Spencer. On January 29, 2012, the film won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
In 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) is a 50-year-old black maid spending her life raising white children and recently lost her only son to an industrial accident. Her best friend Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), an outspoken black maid who has long worked for Hilly Holbrook's (Bryce Dallas Howard) mother, Mrs. Walters (Sissy Spacek), to the point that they are very comfortable with each other. She has great cooking skills. Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) is an independent thinking young white woman returning to the family plantation after graduating from the University of Mississippi to find that her beloved childhood maid, Constantine (Cicely Tyson), has quit while she was away. She is perplexed as she believes Constantine would not have left without writing her.
Skeeter's group attend college to find husbands; she is the only one who remains single and wants to pursue a writing career. She lands a job with the local paper as a "homemaker hints" columnist. Aibileen, the maid to her easily influenced good friend, Elizabeth (Ahna O'Reilly), is asked to help. Increasingly, Skeeter becomes uncomfortable with the attitude of whites towards their "help", especially after Hilly's "Home Help Sanitation Initiative", a legislative idea for separate toilets for black domestic help because "black people carry different diseases to white people".
Skeeter has the idea of writing about the relationships between whites and their black help, especially as the black-maid raised children eventually take on the attitudes of their parents when they become adults. The maids are very reluctant to cooperate, afraid of retribution from their employers, but Aibileen agrees. Eventually Minny cooperates, just after being fired by Hilly for using the guest bath as instructed by Mrs. Walters instead of going out into a tornado to use the help's toilet. Little interest is expressed by any other maids approached.
Hilly makes finding work difficult for Minny by saying she stole from her, which then causes Minny's daughter to leave school to work as a maid. Minny eventually finds work with a working-class background outcast Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), who is married to a wealthy socialite, Johnny (Mike Vogel), the ex-boyfriend of Hilly, and informs that she's pregnant. Celia is clueless about cooking: for example, when Minny comes to interview, Minny asks if she was cooking something, because Minny smells burnt food in the air.
The relationship between Celia and Minny becomes very deep after Celia miscarries and she informs Minny that she and Johnny married because she got pregnant, but lost the baby a month later, and she also miscarried two other babies. During a charity event at which, in an attempt to avoid a pouched stomach, Celia drinks only alcohol, she has an unfortunate confrontation with Hilly. Their history is explained as well as why Celia is an outcast.
Skeeter submits the draft book to a New York City editor with Harper & Row, Elaine Stein (Mary Steenburgen), who advises her that more maids' stories need to appear, and that it has to happen quickly as the holidays are approaching and the newly developing Civil Rights movement may be short lived. A culmination of the Medgar Evers assassination and Hilly having Minny's replacement arrested for stealing a diamond ring brings forth more maids than Skeeter could have hoped. The maids realize that this could give them an opportunity to make known what they experience in life.
What Skeeter and the maids realize so late in their writing of the book is that some stories are very connected with particular maids and families, and begin to worry that they will be exposed. Their worries are heightened following the assassination of President Kennedy. Thus, Minny, as a form of "insurance", reveals her "Terrible Awful" story to ensure the employers will not retaliate lest they confirm family secrets: Minny retaliated for being fired and for slurs on her reputation by baking her renowned chocolate pie especially for Hilly by adding her own feces to it, making it a point to keep Mrs. Walters away from it. Hilly ate two slices of the pie before Minny told her what she had put in it, causing Mrs. Walters to break out in a laughing fit - for which Hilly subsequently locked her away in a convalescent home. Minny is sure Hilly's influence over all the others will keep the employers from acknowledging the stories.
The last story needed before submitting the final draft was that of Skeeter and Constantine. Her mother, Charlotte Phelan (Allison Janney), who is suffering from cancer, is confronted and reveals that in order to save face with other white women during a reception Constantine was barred from the house. To make amends, the family sends Skeeter's brother to Chicago (where her daughter Rachel (LaChanze) lived) to bring her back since she left town the day after being barred. They found out that she had died. Skeeter is furious and brokenhearted.
The book is a success and the royalties are shared with the maids. Skeeter's boyfriend becomes aware of the book's contents and splits up with her. Minny confesses about the Terrible Awful to Celia, who finally sees Hilly for the manipulative bully she is. Thinking that all is safe with the origins of the book, Hilly becomes enraged when a contribution from Celia to one of Hilly's charitable works is made out to "Two Slice Hilly." At the time Hilly had just broken out with a canker sore and confronts Skeeter, but before much can be said, Charlotte questions Hilly's integrity and tells her to get off the property. Charlotte comes to the conclusion that her independent daughter really is quite extraordinary and should be admired, especially when she takes a phone call intended for Skeeter from Elaine about being offered a job, and mother and daughter make peace with one another.
Celia thinks that she has adequately deceived her husband about bringing in Minny to help her manage the housekeeping. When Johnny comes up the drive, Minny thinks he will be furious with her, and she runs terrified toward the house before he is able to catch up with her on foot and tell her that he really appreciates her coming into the household. Celia shows Minny a table full of food she has prepared and reassures her that there is a place for her there as long as she wants. This gives Minny the courage to separate from her abusive husband, and she takes her children to live with Aibileen.
The conclusion of the film has Hilly back to her old ways: knowing she cannot have Aibileen imprisoned for her writings without exposing herself, she vindictively intends instead to frame her for the theft of some loaned silver cutlery. Elizabeth attempts to let the issue pass but Hilly presses the issue to the point where she fires Elizabeth's help. Aibileen has had enough of Hilly and denounces her as a godless woman never at peace and always vindictive. Aibileen reassures Elizabeth's daughter Mae Mobley with the creed that she has said to all her charges, but then, compelled by Elizabeth, leaves for a new life.
- Emma Stone as Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, the main protagonist, a college graduate and aspiring writer.
- Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, a black maid and Skeeter's good friend who's point of view the story is told from. She also narrates the story.
- Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, a brilliant cook, but with a smart mouth that has gotten her fired a lot of times; she is Aibileen's best friend.
- Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote, Minny's naive but kind employer and Johnny's wife.
- Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly Holbrook, the main antagonist, the town's snooty, racist ringleader.
- Allison Janney as Charlotte Phelan, Skeeter's mother.
- Ahna O'Reilly as Elizabeth Leefolt, Aibileen's employer and secondary antagonist. She is not really as cruel as Hilly, but she cannot stand up to her, unlike Skeeter. She has been seen as neglectful to her daughter.
- Chris Lowell as Stuart Whitworth, Skeeter's boyfriend and a senator's son.
- Cicely Tyson as Constantine Bates, Skeeter's beloved childhood maid.
- Mike Vogel as Johnny Foote, Hilly's ex-boyfriend and Celia's husband.
- Sissy Spacek as Mrs. Walters, Hilly's mother.
- Anna Camp as Jolene French, a friend of Hilly and Elizabeth.
- Brian Kerwin as Robert Phelan, Skeeter's father
- Aunjanue Ellis as Yule May Davis, a maid fired by Hilly for pawning a ring she stole from the Holbrook house to pay for her twin sons's college tuition.
- Emma and Eleanor Henry as Mae Mobley Leefolt, Elizabeth's baby.
- Ted Welch as William Holbrook, Hilly's husband.
- LaChanze as Rachel Bates, daughter of Constantine.
- Mary Steenburgen as Elaine Stein, an editor for Harper & Row.
- Leslie Jordan as Mr. Blackly
- Nelsan Ellis as Henry, the waiter
- Wes Chatham as Carlton Phelan, Skeeter's brother.
- Tiffany Brouwer as Rebecca, Carlton's fiance.
- Kelsey Scot as Sugar Jackson, Minny's daughter.
- David Oyelowo as Preacher Green
- Dana Ivey as Grace Higginbotham
- Ashley Johnson as Mary Beth Caldwell
In December 2009, Variety reported that Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, and Mark Radcliffe would produce a film adaptation of The Help, under their production company 1492 Pictures. Brunson Green of Harbinger Productions also co-produced. The film was written and directed by Stockett's childhood friend, Tate Taylor, who optioned film rights to the book before its publication.
The first casting news for the production came in March 2010, was reported that Stone was attached to play the role of Skeeter Phelan. Other actors were since cast, including Davis as Aibileen; Howard as Hilly Holbrook, Jackson's snooty town ringleader; Janney as Charlotte Phelan, Skeeter's mother; and Lowell as Stuart Whitworth, Skeeter's boyfriend and a senator's son. Leslie Jordan appears as the editor of the fictional local newspaper, The Jackson Journal. Mike Vogel plays the character Johnny Foote. Octavia Spencer portrays Minny. A longtime friend of Stockett and Taylor, Spencer inspired the character of Minny in Stockett's novel and voiced her in the audiobook version.
Filming began in July 2010 and extended through October. The town of Greenwood, Mississippi, was chosen to portray 1960s-era Jackson, and producer Green said he had expected to shoot "95 percent" of the film there. Parts of the film were also shot in the real-life Jackson, as well as in nearby Clarksdale and Greenville. One of the few locations that existed in 1963 Jackson, the book and the film is Jackson landmark Brent's Drugs, which dates to 1946. Other locations that can still be found in Jackson include the New Capitol Building and the Mayflower Cafe downtown. Scenes set at the Jackson Journal office were shot in Clarksdale at the building which formerly housed the Clarksdale Press Register for 40 years until April 2010.
The Help was the most significant film production in Mississippi since O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) "Honestly, my heart would be broken if it were set anywhere but Mississippi", Stockett wrote in an e-mail to reporters. In order to convince producers to shoot in Greenwood, Tate Taylor and others had previously come to the town and scouted out locations; at his first meeting with DreamWorks executives, he presented them with a photo album of potential filming spots in the area. The state's tax incentive program for filmmakers was also a key enticement in the decision.
|The Help: Music from the Motion Picture|
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Released||July 26, 2011|
|Genre||Blues, soul, rhythm and blues, rock and roll|
- Track listing
|1.||"The Living Proof"||Mary J. Blige||5:57|
|2.||"Jackson"||Johnny Cash and June Carter||5:28|
|4.||"I Ain't Never"||Webb Pierce||1:56|
|5.||"Victory Is Mine"||Dorothy Norwood||3:47|
|6.||"Road Runner"||Bo Diddley||2:48|
|7.||"Hallelujah I Love Her So"||Ray Charles||2:35|
|8.||"The Wah-Watusi"||The Orlons||2:32|
|10.||"Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"||Bob Dylan||3:38|
|11.||"Let's Twist Again"||Chubby Checker||2:19|
|12.||"Don't Knock"||Mavis Staples||2:30|
On October 13, 2010, Disney gave the film a release date of August 12, 2011. On June 30, 2011, the film's release date was rescheduled two days earlier to August 10, 2011.
The film was released by Touchstone Home Entertainment Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and digital download on December 6, 2011. The release was produced in three different physical packages: a three-disc combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy); a two-disc combo pack (Blu-ray and DVD); and a single-disc DVD. It was also released as a digital download option in both standard and high definition. The DVD version includes two deleted scenes and The Living Proof music video by Mary J. Blige. The digital download version includes the same features as the DVD version, plus one additional deleted scene. Both the two-disc and three-disc combo packs include the same features as the DVD version, as well as "The Making of 'The Help': From Friendship to Film", "In Their Own Words: A Tribute to the Maids of Mississippi", and three deleted scenes with introductions by director Taylor.
The Help received mostly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregators Rotten Tomatoes reported that 77% of 200 professional critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 7.1/10. The site's consensus stated, "Though arguably guilty of glossing over its racial themes, The Help rises on the strength of its cast—particularly Viola Davis, whose performance is powerful enough to carry the film on its own." Metacritic, a review aggregator which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 62 based on 41 reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was an A+ on an A+ to F scale.
Tom Long from The Detroit News remarked about the film: "Appealling, entertaining, touching and perhaps even a bit healing, The Help is an old-fashioned grand yarn of a film, the sort we rarely get these days." Connie Ogle of The Miami Herald gave the film three out of four stars and said it "will make you laugh, yes, but it can also break your heart. In the dog days of August moviegoing, that's a powerful recommendation."
More on the mixed side was Karina Longworth of The Village Voice: "We get a fairly typical Hollywood flattening of history, with powerful villains and disenfranchised heroes." Rick Groen of The Globe and Mail, giving the film two out of four stars, said: "Typically, this sort of film is an earnest tear-jerker with moments of levity. Instead, what we have here is a raucous rib-tickler with occasional pauses for a little dramatic relief." Referring to the film as a "big, ole slab of honey-glazed hokum", The New York Times noted that "save for Ms. Davis's, however, the performances are almost all overly broad, sometimes excruciatingly so, characterized by loud laughs, bugging eyes and pumping limbs."
Some of the negative reviews criticized the film for its inability to match the quality of the book. Chris Hewitt of the St. Paul Pioneer Press said about the film: "Some adaptations find a fresh, cinematic way to convey a book's spirit but The Help doesn't."
Many critics praised the performances of Davis and Spencer. Wilson Morales of Blackfilm.com gave the movie three out of four stars and commented, "With powerful performances given by Viola Davis and scene stealer Octavia Spencer, the film is an emotionally moving drama that remains highly entertaining." David Edelstein from New York magazine commented that, "The Help belongs to Viola Davis."
Ida E. Jones, the national director of the Association of Black Women Historians, released an open statement criticizing the film, stating "[d]espite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, The Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers." The ABWH accused both the book and the film of insensitive portrayals of African-American vernacular, a nearly uniform depiction of black men as cruel or absent, and a failure to acknowledge the sexual harassment that many black women endured in their white employers' homes. Jones concluded by saying that "The Association of Black Women Historians finds it unacceptable for either this book or this film to strip black women's lives of historical accuracy for the sake of entertainment."
Roxane Gay of literary web magazine The Rumpus articulated reasons the film might be offensive to African Americans, mentioning the film's use of racial Hollywood stereotypes like the Magical Negro and Gone with the Wind.
The Help earned $169,708,112 in North America and $41,900,000 in other territories for a worldwide total of $211,608,112.
In North America, on its opening day (Wednesday, August 10, 2011), it topped the box office with $5.54 million. It then added $4.33 million on Thursday, declining only 21 percent,
a two-day total to $9.87 million. On its first weekend, the film grossed $26.0 million, coming in second place behind Rise of the Planet of the Apes. However, during its second weekend, the film jumped to first place with $20.0 million, declining only 23 percent, the smallest drop among films playing nationwide. The film crossed the $100 million mark on its 21st day of release, becoming one of only two titles in August 2011 that achieved this. On its fourth weekend (Labor Day three-day weekend), it became the first film since Inception (2010), to top the box-office charts for three consecutive weekends. Its four-day weekend haul of $19.9 million was the fourth largest for a Labor-day weekend. Notably, The Help topped the box office for 25 days in a row. This was the longest uninterrupted streak since The Sixth Sense (35 days), which was also a late summer release, in 1999.
To promote the film, TakePart.com hosted a series of three writing contests. Rebecca Lubin, of Mill Valley, California, who has been a nanny for nearly two decades won the recipe contest. Darcy Pattison's "11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph" won "The Help" Children's Story Contest with her story about a tenacious young girl who refuses to take a good photograph while her father is away "soldiering". After being chosen by guest judge and children's-book author Lou Berger, the story was professionally illustrated. The final contest was about "someone who inspired you". Genoveva Islas-Hooker charmed guest judge Doc Hendley (founder of Wine to Water) with her story, A Heroine Named Confidential. A case manager for patients with HIV, Islas-Hooker was consistently inspired by one special individual who never gave up the fight to live.
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- Sampson, Mike (March 23, 2010). "Emma Stone Looks to Dreamworks for 'Help'". JoBlo.com. Retrieved March 23, 2010.
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- "Soundtrack Details For "The Help" (Track List Includes Ray Charles, Chubby Checker + Many Others)". indieWire. June 21, 2011. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
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- Longworth, Karina (August 10, 2011). "Civil Rights Through a Soft Focus Lens in The Help". The Village Voice. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
- Groen, Rick (August 10, 2011). "The Help: Civil Rights Lite, Played for Laughs". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
- Dargis, Manohla (August 9, 2011). "'The Maids' Now Have Their Say". The New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
- "'The Help' Review: Movie Based on Beloved Book Will Be Loved Best If You've Read the Book". St. Paul Pioneer Press.
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- Edlestein, David. "Movie Review: Viola Davis Gives the Too-Soft The Help a Spine". www.vulture.com. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- Jones, Ida E. (August 7, 2011). "An Open Statement to the Fans of The Help". Association of Black Women Historians. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
- Gay, Roxane (August 17, 2011). "The Solace of Preparing Fried Foods and Other Quaint Remembrances from 1960s Mississippi: Thoughts on The Help". The Rumpus. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
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- "Take Part".
- "11 Ways To Ruin a Photograph". 11 Ways to Ruin a Photograph.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: The Help (film)|
- The Help at AllMovie
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- civilrightstravel, The Help's filming locations and associated civil-rights history award