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The Help

Change begins with a whisper.

Rating: PG-13/10

Running Time: 146 minutes

The Help is a tough one to call. On the one hand, it’s a feelgood yarn that tackles a difficult stage in American history with a refreshing positivity and an attractive sheen. On the other hand, it’s an overly sentimental, airbrushed fairytale with barely any grounding in reality that in its own way is a little racist and condescending. Simply put, this has Oscar material written all over it.

Tate Taylor’s based-on-a-bestselling-book-and-definitely-not-a-true-story movie is set in Mississippi during the 1960s and tackles the fledgling civil rights movement. Society Girl Skeeter (Stone) returns from university to her hometown with dreams of being a writer. She decides to interview the black hired help of the rich families in the area to see their side to high society life but when her obnoxious best friend’s (Howard) maid (Davis) Aibileen is the first to open up, this causes ructions in this close-knit, institutionally racist community. As more and more come forward to share their stories, the rich whites get embarrassed, new friendships are made and times begin to change.

There are a lot of characters to root for here and the pantomime villains are there for all to see but generally the characterisation suffers due to the totality, in true Hollywood style, of every white person being evil (bar the one who is ‘leading’ the blacks) and every black person being perfectly virtuous. Leaving behind the love-it or hate-it message for a moment, The Help is funny and lighted-hearted yet serious when it needs to be. The cast expertly use the snappy dialogue to create a memorable bunch and the plot is engaging and interesting for the best part.

For the less cynical viewer – and partly even me with my cold, dead heart – this is a dramatic treat that will leave you whooping and hollering at the screen with a warm glow in your heart.

It's Got: Sizzling dialogue, an engaging plot, an attractive sheen

It Needs: More of a cutting edge, to sort out the morally confused plot, to be less black and white (ahem)


The Help could be used as a psychological test to see what kind of person you are. Cynical and unwilling to be sold an overly sentimental, confused, one-dimensional tale or a warmhearted human being who can allow themselves to be charmed by a feelgood drama with an engaging story.