The Help | Chicago Reader

The Help

Rated PG-13 137 minutes 2011

This DreamWorks production, a sort of primer on racism for grade-school children, presents the segregation era with little sociological nuance but plenty of bathroom humor. Rolling her eyes like a community theater diva, Emma Stone plays an aspiring journalist who defies her upper-class background to conduct a series of secret interviews with black domestics in Mississippi in the early 60s. As in many reductive period pieces, there are no real characters here, just archetypes, namely reactionary cretins and sensitive souls who anticipate modern attitudes. (There's a third type, of course: the angelic, quietly suffering black matriarch.) This is at least handsome to look at, thanks to a digitally enhanced color scheme modeled after the Coens' O Brother, Where Art Thou?, though the storybook aesthetic is completely inappropriate to the theme of injustice. The talents wasted in the cast include Sissy Spacek and Viola Davis; Tate Taylor wrote and directed.

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: Tate Taylor

Producer: Brunson Green, Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, Mark Radcliffe, Tate Taylor, L. Dean Jones Jr., Nate Berkus, Jennifer Blum, John Norris, Mohamed Al Mazrouei and Jeff Skoll

Cast: Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Bryce Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Ahna O'Reilly, Anna Camp, Cicely Tyson, Chris Lowell, Mike Vogel, Aunjanue Ellis and Mary Steenburgen

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