The Help--A Movie Review: I very much enjoyed this film. Was it absolutely perfect? Probably not BUT I must disagree with Melissa Harris Perry Professor of political science at Tulane University who, on Rachel Maddow, said how much she loathed it. She gave as her rationale that it was not about the dreary drudged-filled life of a black maid exposing the essence of the black experience in the south. She thought it was all about white women and the aspiring white writer who comes from the white background of privilege but decides she wants to write and publish a story from the perspective of the black maid -- The Help.
I disagree with Ms. Perry which surprised me as most often I agree with her well thought out expert analysis. The story was NOT, in my opinion, centrifugally about the white writer but the writer was used as a vehicle to tell the story of the black experience in the south through the black maids among them Viola Davis as Abiline, her friend Minnie and others who made up, I thought, the preponderance of the film. It was about the black/white cultural ethos in the south.
The maid performances were nothing short of STELLAR. I LOVED them. Their white taskmasters gave excellent performances too as they showed well the empty meaninglessness and immorality of their lives. Those southern whites who profess Christianity so strongly should reflect on Christ's words: "What profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his soul?" I felt both sorry for these shallow white women and hated them at the same time.
In my opinion, Viola Davis should get best performance of an actress NOT in a supporting role but in a MAIN role. Her role, as I see it, was the central character. I thought the white writer Skeeter (Bryce Dallas Howard) was simply the narrator through which the story could be told and the expositor of the cultural reality of black people and their white supremacist masters in the south during the early 1960's. Their experience with each other was, I believe, one step above slavery since the cultural mandates -- violence and death -- at the hands of the white power brokers enforcing this vile system still survived.
The film was heart wrenching and gripping. The danger the black person experienced in the south most especially, perhaps, in one of the worst southern states for its treatment of black people, Mississippi, was bone chilling. Yes, I know, all states have some racism but this type of racism in the early sixties in the south takes that loathsome fact to Olympian heights. What a trapped, awful, difficult and sad life the maids experienced. Even with all the difficulty, though, there was room in their hearts for laughter and humanity about the cruel fate bestowed upon them. I LOVED them.
I hated the white women, felt sorry for them and their utter STUPIDITY. As a white woman I felt ashamed that in this country something so heinous, so cruel and so embedded in the culture existed and to some extent still does. There was NO escape. My heart goes out to a people who have known unspeakable suffering in this country. I want a collective apology to entire group of people who still suffer humiliations NO ONE in this country should EVER have to suffer again. Representative John Lewis an African American House member, a cultured and wonderful gentleman, was spat upon on the steps of the Capitol by utter racists whose temperature rose when a black man entered the oval office. The half white part of Barack Obama to them matters not as just one drop of blackness in a person determines the threat of systemic violence heaped upon them.
It makes me see how brave the MLK's of the world were, how brave the Ralph Abernathy's were, how brave Representative John Lewis was and so many more heroes too numerous to mention here. Confederate flags, the rancid symbol of this de jure racist segregation, should be taken down from the top of every State House in the south as we live now, hopefully, to erase any vestiges of that ugly system and make a fairer world!
I highly recommend this film.