Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Help, dir/wr. Tate Taylor, based on The Help by Kathryn Stockett, st. Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Allison Janney, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain

There's a great quote from Stewart Lee regarding political correctness, how it's a blunt instrument but ultimately one worth wielding. The same may be said of the neatly bound and palatable Hollywood staple of Triumph Over Adversity. Is it such a bad thing that history is sweetened? Tate Taylor's The Help benefits from such a broad approach. We see oppression and institutionalised racism, abhorrent of course, but the film stops short of ever going into darker territories. To this end Thomas Newman's earnest score soars in just the right places, and there're some winning performances from Stone, Davis and Chastain in particular. It's easy to dismiss this as a film middle-class white folk can watch and feel good about themselves or a film that somehow does a disservice to black domestic workers by showing a fictionalised account rather than genuine testimony, but like Stewart Lee says, it may be a blunt tool, but if just a few people research the Civil Rights era of America in the early 60's after the credits roll, isn't that worth something? The Help isn't smug or preachy. It isn't (too) heavy handed in its message. Its packaging may be easy-open, but it's honest, sincere and moving filmmaking.