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The Secret Lives of ‘The Help’

Viola Davis is brilliant in Tate Taylor's adaptation of a 2009 bestseller

From left: Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer in The Help

Viola davis (left) and Octavia Spencer give stirring performances in The Help. — Photo Courtesy Of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Tate Taylor
Rated PG-13,  Runtime: 137 mins.
Stars: Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer

En español  |  Cultural historians who take issue with the accuracy of The Help are splitting hairs. This is a film based on a hugely popular novel that A) gives us a glimpse into a period of history from the perspective of a people we’ve yet to hear from; and B) celebrates the relations, in all their idiosyncrasies, of women (in this case living in 1963 Jackson, Mississippi) both white and black. What’s wrong with that? In addition, The Help offers up a great story and nuanced characters portrayed by some fine actresses.

Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 bestseller takes as its protagonist Skeeter (Emma Stone), an Ole Miss grad who returns to her native Jackson in the ’60s as a fledgling writer.

While penning a housekeeping column for the local paper, she befriends the black maids who work for local families, including her own. In the process, Skeeter morphs into a secret militant against discrimination — especially after her former best pal Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) begins a campaign as Junior League president to pass a bill requiring employers to provide separate, outdoor bathrooms for their “help,” supposedly to prevent the spread of disease. Skeeter knows first-hand, having been raised as much by an African American nanny as by her own mother (Allison Janney), that the “help” are a significant part of the family structure, and that requiring them to use segregated lesser facilities is not only unjust but cruel.

Next: Viola Davis talks about The Help. >>

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Your Scoop on Cinema

Movies for Grownups is focused on films with distinct relevance to a 50-plus audience. In reviews, previews and interviews, we look for actors and themes that speak to the experiences of older moviegoers. Find more about us on:


100 Must-See Movies for Grownups

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January 2015

A treasure trove of delightfully offbeat recommendations for discerning moviegoers, from the beginnings of film right up the present.

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