MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
When I first saw advertisements for “The Help,” I dreaded seeing it. I don’t have a problem with the subject matter or the actors. Rather, it felt like a predictable story reserved for book club enthusiasts who watch too much Oprah and Rachel Ray. I can’t say that this is an inaccurate statement, but it is quite impressive how good the film is, considering.
Based on the best-selling novel, “The Help” follows a young woman from the South who profiles the lives of the African American maids in her home town. Once her own book is published, it causes a stir in the community and sheds some light on the troubles these women face.
After making tons of money in the theaters and up for dozens of critical awards, “The Help” has become a bona fide hit, and rightfully so. It’s a real button-pusher, and the film has the easy-to-read flow of the original book. In the theaters, I didn’t hate it; quite the opposite, I found it surprisingly enjoyable. And I suppose that’s the greatest compliment I could give the film: I didn’t hate it, even if I was dreading it going in.
The only real problems with this movie is, evidenced by its polarizing nature in some circles, it lays things on a bit thick. The story is incredibly one-sided, and every single maid featured in the film is a kind and gentle soul. In fact, the only African American character who has any problem is the abusive husband of one of the characters, and he’s never actually seen in the film.
The movie takes plenty of opportunities to wag its finger at the audience, capitalizing on white guilt and trying to shame the viewer. The problem with this is that families that can afford full-time help like this are more in the minority than the actual minorities portrayed in the film. I’m sure that the stars and filmmakers have their own put-upon staff. I doubt Viola Davis is out there mowing her grass on Sundays. She’s probably got a minority doing that for her.
So, if you overanalyze the movie, you’ll find plenty of fault. But if you’re looking for a feel-good film that pushes the right buttons at the right times, you can easily enjoy “The Help.”
The Blu-ray comes with quite a few deleted scenes, which feature introductions by director Tate Taylor. There’s also Mary J. Blige’s music video “The Living Proof.” Finally, the featurettes “Making of The Help: From Friendship to Film” and “In Their Own Words: A Tribute to the Maids of Mississippi” are informative but will probably send the film’s haters into a tizzy for the same reasons as the movie did.