The Help

Spunky young wannabe journalist “Skeeter” (Emma Stone) returns to her small town in Alabama looking for some kind of entreé into the world of writershipitude, and ends up discovering a rich vein of stories by the colored help of the town’s middle class families.

You know who should be crying over this?

Lindsay Lohan.

I mean, seriously: Crazy Stupid Love, Friends With Benefits, Easy A, Zombieland, this movie—a share of those probably should have gone to the Lohan, but for the whole life-is-a-trainwreck thing. She’s sort of the unwritten meta-tragedy here.

And completely off-topic. The mind, it plays tricks.

This movie is, dare I say, a chick flick. And, at nearly two-and-a-half hours, it’s long. It’s also dangerously “socially relevant” and Baby Boomer pander-y, taking place in the early ‘60s.

Nigh miraculously, it all works. It wasn’t till the end of the film that I realized how long it was getting and both the Boy and the Flower sat through it without complaint. The acting is all solid, the music has the right mix, and the pacing is lively.

This is one of those reviews where I don’t say much about the actual events that unfold in the movie, even though you could probably take ten minutes to guess them all from a light outline. Well, most of them; there are probably a few surprises in there.

The movie does a very good job of drawing the characters and granting them their frailties. There are no “magic negros” and it’s not really (as it might first seem) about the white (wo)man coming to set them free. It’s also not about how bad white folk are, though there’s plenty of bad behavior from them. The black women seem to less ill-behaved, but one could see this clearly as a function of not having much free time.

What I’m getting at is that it navigates the historical minefield of race relations—and more importantly, for the sake of the moviegoing audience, the cinematic minefield of portrayal of race.

If there’s one perhaps politically correct oddity, it’s a near complete absence of black men. Though the only white men of significance are those who interact with our intrepid journalist.

It’s a chick flick. If Bridesmaids is the chick-flick-as-comedy, The Help is chick-flick-as-historical fiction.

It’s actually kind of reassuring. There need to be good chick flicks.

There’s Oscar scuttlebutt—fairly—and lots of talk about how the movie is racist—predictably. I’ve heard a lot of research went into the source book, and I tend to believe that, but there is a fair amount of wish fulfillment here, too. There wasn’t such a book, as far as I know, and the movie can feel a little pat in its resolution.

But there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not as extreme as, say, La Vita E Bella or Dances with Wolves, and it’s a grand Hollywood tradition to give the audience an upbeat, if not exactly happy, ending. Writer/director Tate Taylor has achieved something well above par here, something worthy of recognition.

And Lindsay Lohan should be dying, watching Emma Stone take a swing at a pitch she could have had, and knock it out of the park.

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