The Help ***1/2 stars out of 4
Devoted fans of Kathryn Stockett's bestseller "The Help" can breathe a sigh of relief. The film version, now in theaters, is a wonderful adaptation that is powerful, poignant, and at times laugh out loud funny. It also boasts one of the best female casts ever assembled.
Set in the civil-rights era in Jackson, Mississippi, The Help is the story of the tension fraught relationship between white southern women and their maids. At the center of the story is Aibileen, an African-American woman who has worked in white households her entire life. She raises their children imparting love and self esteem but getting little appreciation from her employers. The immensely talented Viola Davis will surely get an Oscar nomination for her stunning portrayal of Aibileen. The performance is filled with a raw honesty and pain that is deeply felt by the film goer. When a young white woman named Skeeter returns home from college and sees how badly her bigotted friends treat the Help, the aspiring journalist decides to write a book about their stories.
The final straw for Skeeter, played by the charming but miscast Emma Stone, is seeing her racist friend Hilly insist that everyone in the community build separate bathrooms for their help, preferably outside. Bryce Dallas Howard in her best performance yet, plays Hilly with a cunning malevolence that captures the true ugliness of that period in our history.
As the maids risk their lives and livelihoods to give Skeeter the full heartbreaking details of their servitude to ungrateful and entitled bosses, you will be reaching for your hanky.
But revenge is sweet, and hilarious. If you've read the book, you know that the "pie" scene is a moment of victory. You'll weep and you'll cheer, for The Help.