The Help (2011)

The Help Poster

Aibileen Clark is a middle-aged African-American maid who has spent her life raising white children and has recently lost her only son; Minny Jackson is an African-American maid who has often offended her employers despite her family's struggles with money and her desperate need for jobs; and Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan is a young white woman who has recently moved back home after graduating college to find out her childhood maid has mysteriously disappeared. These three stories intertwine to explain how life in Jackson, Mississippi revolves around "the help"; yet they are always kept at a certain distance because of racial lines.

"The Help", directed by Tate Taylor and released in 2011, is a historic period drama based on Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel of the very same name. Set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, throughout the Civil Rights Movement, the film revolves around two African-American housemaids working in white households and a young, ambitious white reporter who wishes to expose racial discrimination in society.

The Plot
The plot narrates the lives of Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), Afro-American housemaids working in white families. Aibileen, a soft-spoken lady, is accountable for raising the children of her companies, while Minny, known for her culinary abilities, likewise deals with her abusive hubby. After losing her younger boy due to inadequate medical aid, Aibileen keeps a diary telling her experiences of racial discrimination. Minny loses her job after defying her racist employer Hilly Holbrook.

On the other hand, Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan (Emma Stone), an ambitious journalist and author, returns from college, understands the unfairness her buddies inflict upon their housemaids, and decides to compose a book from the perspective of the housemaids, highlighting their plight and discrimination. With much coaxing, Skeeter persuades Aibileen and Minny to share their stories. As the story advances, more house maids come forward, exposing the racial bias widespread in society.

The Climax
Uneven shots to silence the house maids by passing a Home Health Sanitation Initiative, a bill that needs African-American domestic aid to use different restrooms. Bold, Minny seeks vengeance on Hilly by serving her a pie combined with her feces, a poignant representation of the house maids' suppressed anger.

The book, entitled "The Help", becomes a bestseller, triggering an uproar in the town, though its author stays anonymous. Hilly faces Skeeter and needs to know if she is the writer, however Skeeter denies it to safeguard the maids.

The Conclusion
In the end, Hilly fires Aibileen, implicating her of taking silver. Minny reveals to Hilly that she was the one who made the pie, ensuring her silence about the book's authorship so as not to embarrass herself. Aibileen resigns, telling off Hilly and lastly discovering self-pride. The movie closes with Aibileen walking away, leaving her past behind, prepared to start a new chapter in her life, as an author narrating her own experiences.

Themes and Critical Acclaim
"The Help" is a moving representation of the 1960s' social structure, highlighting racism and the Black struggle for equality. The movie struck home with audiences and critics alike, receiving four Academy Award elections and ultimately winning Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer.

While some criticism developed relating to the white hero trope, "The Help" nonetheless stays a substantial film in the civil liberties canon, giving the silver screen the lesser-explored stories of Black domestic helpers. It examines the intricate blend of love and resentment, dominance and reliance that marked post-slavery Afro-American domestic service through poignant discussions and effective performances.

Top Cast