Rashid Irani's review: The Help

The Help
Direction: Tate Taylor
Cast: Viola Davis, Emma Stone
Rating: ***1/2

Just when we thought that social issues had been shot dead and buried by Hollywood — overdosing on 3D and heist flicks — there comes The Help which once again takes up cudgels against racism.

The Oscar-winning Crash (2004) was a strong indictment of the still-prevalent prejudice. Director Taylor’s film, however, returns to the early 1960s when blacks in the Deep South were being oppressed as if they were ‘slaves’ of the whites. It’s a theme which has been deftly narrated in The Colour Purple, Mississippi Burning and A Time to Kill.

Adapted from a brisk-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, the plot mainly revolves around a liberal writer (Stone) who sets out to chronicle the lives of two African-American maids (Davis-Octavia Spencer). The ‘helps’ reluctantly agree to tell all on the condition of anonymity. The film is remarkable for the ensemble of believably polarised characters it creates. If a white woman insists on a separate toilet for a woman ‘beneath’ her status, one of the helps gets her comeuppance by adding her excreta to the chocolate pie baked for the lady.

Consistently poignant and engrossing, the film’s other scoring point is the crackling chemistry between the author and her two subjects. Excellently acted by the entire cast, a special salute should go out to Viola Davis as the courageous older maid.

Her performance, alone, is worth a walk to the nearest multiplex.


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