Nixdminx
The life and times of a happy go lucky blogger in London
Film: The Help
Categories: blogging mums

I went to a preview screening of The Help with a few of my fave bloggers on Friday and we were all pretty impressed with it.

Set in 1960s Mississipi, it unveils the domestic lives of society there and sheds light on the absurdity and tragic consquences of deep seated racism. The story pivots around Skeeter, a young upstart who is determined to be different not just by nature, but by her own personality and independent lifestyle and Aibileen, a house maid who has lost her son.

Skeeter is unlike her other friends who are all intent on marriage and homemaking and yearns for a career of her own after finishing college. She applies to her local newspaper to become a journalist and is given a job on a newspaper which isn’t exactly what she wanted; she’s to become the ghost writer for the Miss Myrna cleaning-hints weekly column. Aibileen is a professional maid and surrogate mother to her charges who she brings up in a unique style.

Skeeter turns to Aibileen, her best friend’s maid, to research her column and gather advice on all things household related and then comes the slow dawn of realisation; Aibileen and her friends have more than tips to share, they have their own version of events and life in Mississippi that span generations and date back to slavery. Skeeter has found the inspiration for her first book hidden in plain sight. She begins to surface the stories from the other side of household help; by those that are employed, virtually as slaves, banned from using toilets inside the houses of their white bosses yet given the responsibility of raising their countless offspring. It isn’t long before Skeeter learns that what she is doing is illegal yet she is unperturbed and her ambition drives her on. She finds herself a publisher who she begins talking with and who then mentors her through the book writing process and encourages her to push the boundaries of racial divides, prejudice and motherhood.

Unlike Mississippi Burning which was horrific, this film is layered with the complexities of women’s relationships; the erosion of dominance and respect among groups of friends in a changing socio-political landscape, the employer-employee set up (more master slave in some circumstances), confidantes and keepers of secrets, intergenerational dissonance and the quasi mother-child bond that comes between childminders and their wards. There’s a lot more to this vignette than just interracial struggles, it’s at the cusp of the American feminist movement, desegregation, Vietnam and the swinging 60s and for a mainstream film, it does a good job of leaving the audience asking questions and delivers a few laughs along the way as home perms go wrong, dressmaking is way off vogue and cooking leaves a lot to be desired. It’s as if all the women are aching for change and await a catalyst.

This film ticks all the boxes for a classical emotional rollercoaster, without being too over the top, and much like Driving Miss Daisy or Fried Green Tomatoes, it will definitely sit on the poignant yet fearless shelf of moviedom.

There are some really choice scenes in the movie; my favourite being the ‘Shit Pie’ incident. Sissy Spacek is great as Mrs Walters, the mother of the spiteful and vacuous Hilly Hollbrook; Emma Stone makes a good impression as the upstart writer Skeet. The full cast is here.

The film struck a chord with all of us at the screening because it’s about storytelling, and how bravery and unity can help overcome diversity. It resonates heavily with how many of us use blogging to share and tell stories as part of highlighting causes and also how others have used social media to find their voices and make changes. With that in mind, it’s worth looking at the social media camaign that goes along with it here.

About the film
As friendship is so vital to the story of “The Help,” so was friendship vital to how the film became a reality. Director/Screenwriter Tate Taylor and Kathryn Stockett, author of the book “The Help,” were childhood friends who grew up together in Jackson, Miss., in the 1970s.

“The Help” is set in Mississippi, and although a fictional story, it takes place during one of the most important eras in our country’s cultural history—the changing times of the 1960s.

Director and screenwriter Tate Taylor knew from the beginning that “The Help” had to be filmed on location in Mississippi. He wanted to capture the period of time in a very honest and entertaining way and that could not be accomplished on a movie studio back lot.

Taylor explains, “Mississippi is a character itself. Everyone here has some eccentric, eclectic characteristic to them. It’s a fun place. Just look at the storytellers who have come from the South. A lot of their fame and accolades are just because they were writing about what life is like here. They didn’t invent anything. They are commenting on the South. There is no other place quite like it.”

Tate Taylor (Director/Executive Producer/Screenplay by) was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and graduated from the University of Mississippi. After spending time in New York he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his film career. Taylor has established a mentoring program based in Mississippi with Kathryn Stockett, author of “The Help,” that provides creative and structural mentoring for writers and filmmakers.

Kathryn Stockett (Author of “The Help”) was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and creative writing, she moved to New York City, where she lived and worked for 16 years. She currently lives in Atlanta. “The Help,” Stockett’s first novel, was on the New York Times bestseller list for 103 weeks, six of those weeks were at number one.

This new film from DreamWorks Pictures boasts an illustrious cast, including, in alphabetical order, Jessica Chastain, Academy Award® nominee Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Emmy® Award winner Allison Janney, Chris Lowell, Oscar® winner Sissy Spacek, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, Academy Award® nominee Cicely Tyson and Mike Vogel.

The film is written for the screen and directed by Tate Taylor, with Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan producing. Executive producers are Mark Radcliffe, Tate Taylor, L. Dean Jones Jr., Nate Berkus, Jennifer Blum, John Norris, Jeff Skoll and Mohamed Mubarak Al Mazrouei.

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