Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Movie Review: The Help

I waited a bit before writing this review because of my emotional reaction to it. I have not read the book yet. I do that on purpose if I can. Read the book after I’ve seen the movie. That way I can appreciate both, usually. You are forewarned I don’t write reviews to recount the movie. I write my impressions, what I have gained, or not, from seeing the film. That is all. 

“The Help” is a perfect example of a ‘character driven’ movie. Though it is set as a Deep South drama, in theme it could have happened anywhere.
In my family my grandmother had Robert Arthur as her “Help”. He, like the women in this film, basically raised my father, who was an only child. Robert worked for my grandmother until I was around nine or ten. That means he must have worked for her for over twenty something years! He taught my sister and me how to skin squirrels, he told us stories sometimes but mostly wanted us out of his way, I think. He was a big man with an unreadable face, except when he smiled. Then you saw “him.” My father has always spoken highly of Robert and told me years ago he regretted not asking Robert about his family; was really unaware of Robert even having a family of his own until my father had left home and joined the military. Robert had always been there for my father. Robert Arthur was taken for granted.
The humanity of this film is what hit me first; the good, the bad, the ugliness and beauty of us, of our human nature. I sat in a theater almost completely full on a Saturday afternoon and the majority of folks there were of the era the film is set in. Most of them were white. They had been the age of the people in the film in the ‘60’s and they were there in that theater en masse. I live in south Georgia. This was, for me, heartening to see. Folks in that theater reacted to the stark humanity of the story, the best of it; the worst of it. This film is not only blatantly about race and segregation, it is also about humanity and how diverse it is. In the film “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” when the little girl asks Morgan Freeman’s character why he is painted he responds “Because God loves diversity.” This film points out that we are all individual, not just a race, not just a color, and how harsh judgment of that sort can be.
We in the audience laughed, ranted and cried out loud. We clapped and cheered. We became involved, were not just spectators there for entertainment. We ran the full range of emotion. We gained too… maybe a little self knowledge? Toward the end I felt discombobulated asking myself, “Was this really written back then and only just now published? I now know the book was published in 2009. But that is how drawn into the story I was. I cried but had to stop myself from really weeping when, at the end of the movie, the song “The Living Proof” started playing. It so fit and served to plunge me deeper into the experience the film had given me.  
I walked out of the theater almost at war with myself. The cynic saying ‘Yeah, right, like that would have happened”; the eternal hopeful saying “Of course it did, somewhere something like that must have happened.”   No one is really all “black” or “white” in this film or in reality. We are all shades of gray, very human. And the gift this film, no, this writer and these actors give us with their words and performances is one we all need to hear and learn from right now. Not just in our country but in our world. This proverb comes to mind… “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” If we would only think of that more often. My rating: I would pay (again) to see it again.

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