A review - by Shlomoh Sherman

Director: Tate Taylor
Writers: Tate Taylor (screenplay), Kathryn Stockett (novel)
Stars: Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer
Taglines: Change begins with a whisper.
Genres: Drama
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA) Rated PG-13 for thematic material
Official Site: Dreamworks [United States]
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 10 August 2011 (USA)
Also Known As: A Segítség
Filming Locations: Clarksdale, Mississippi, USA
Company Credits: Production Co: DreamWorks SKG, Reliance Big Entertainment, Participant Media
Runtime: USA: 146 min
Plot: A look at what happens when a southern town's unspoken code of rules and behavior is shattered by three courageous women who strike up an unlikely friendship.
Quotes: Charlotte Phelan: "Courage sometimes skips a generation. Thank you for bringing it back to our family".
Connections: Referenced in "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Emma Stone/Adam Carolla/Rickey Minor & Friends

THE HELP is a serious film about race relations between blacks and whites in early 1960s Mississippi. I will not go into the story details in this review but I will say that I have not been so emotionally affected by a movie in a longtime. I actually wept during some of the sequences of the film. Briefly the story centers around several households in Jackson, Mississippi and their colored maids. I can't stress enough how important it is for you to see this film as a look back into our history than many who are of my generation actually remember as a part of our American lives.

Not only do we see the horrible treatment of blacks by whites; the film takes us down to the June, 1963 shooting of Medgar Evers and the November, 1963 assassination of JFK, and how these deaths affected and motivated the maids to proactive efforts to change their lot.

There are some very comic moments in the film but I am sure that blacks who see the film will find them more ironically funny than whites.

People have told me that the book is far better than the movie but I fail to see how much more poignant it could be. Maybe I will borrow it from my local public library.

I would like to make some observations about race relations in America and their history.

If you look back at the ancient world, slavery, the ownership of human beings by other human beings, appears to be cotemporaneous with all of record history since civilization arose. Slavery is institutionalized and accepted as a fact of life by all three monotheistic scriptures, the TANACH, the New Testament, and the KORAN. Christians and Jews in the modern world often try to justify the inclusion of slaves as part of their faiths on the grounds that ancient slavery was not as bad as the slavery that existed in the United States, and that is probably true. BUT - a slave is a slave. He may be a less sad slave but still a slave. The idea that ownership of people is not a good thing only became actualized recently, in the past few centurues and only in the Western world. It is believed by some that slavery still exists in parts of the Eastern Hemisphere.

In Israel, Greece, Rome, and Egypt, one became a slave as the result of two occaisions, as a prisoner of war or as an indentured servant who was unable to financially repay a monetary debt. In each of these societies, slaves had rights and could sue their masters for ill treatment. In Israel, certain forms of abuse towards the slave secured his or her freedom.

American slavery was nothing like that. It was the worst form of slavery that has ever existed. Black slaves were not warriors captured in battle nor were they servants who were financially unable to repay a debt. They were people who were abducted, kidnapped from their homes in Africa and forcibly brought over to these shores. They had no rights. They were counted as chattel. Even after America became a country, they were considered only as a fraction of a human being. Beatings, torture, rapes, breakups of families were common, and taken for granted by American society. When certain segments of the American population became sufficiently disgusted by the "peculiar institution", the country divided and fought a civil war - which won freedom for the slaves.

That should have ended the ill-treatment of blacks. Instead perhaps the treatment of blacks by whites in the South became worse. In many parts of the South, after the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery continued unofficially. Beatings, torture, rapes, lynchings continued well into the last century. Equality was finally won but at a high price as we who remember the newsreels of the 1960s can testify.

Equality is here but relations between blacks and whites have not evolved as Reverend Martin Luther King Jr had hoped they would. There is still a disparity between the races when it comes to crime, employment, schooling, and health, just to mention a few. Blacks and whites are cordial in the workplaces and on campuses and in the supermarkets of America. But when the whistle blows and the school bell rings, the races go their separate ways. Inter-racial dating is still frowned upon by all but super-liberals in both communities.

In effect, at the end of the 20th century, both races chose to go their separate social ways. Why this is can only beguessed at, and even the election of a black president has not helped bring the races any closer. In certain segments of our society, it has encouraged the re-emergence of racism.

Arm chair and limosine liberals have foistered upon us an insulting and unhealthy political correctness which only makes things worse. What are we to call our black brothers and sisters? Don't say colored - say negro. Don't say negro - say black. Don't say black - say African American. I suppose it is not difficult for the next incarnation of our language to insist, don't say African American, say nigger.

Arthur Clarke, one of our great science-fiction writers wrote a novel that takes place in the future a few centuries from now. Unfortunately I cannot remember the title. In that society, political correctness has been done away with altogether. The races are much more friendly than they are in our current reality, and ethnic names such as kike,mick,nigger,honkey, and so forth are used without any rancor or sense of bigotry. I doubt that we will see such a scenario in our lifetime. As a young schoolchild in the Bronx public schools I was taught that America is a great melting pot. As far as I can see from my current perspective, all that has melted in America is good will.

But after all, that is the heritage of America. Our greatest leaders, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson among them, owened slaves and refused to emancipate them even after the country was emancipated from King George.

As I write this review at summer's end, 2011,our economy is in the dumps and a sufficnet number of our fellow citizens do everything in their power to demonize our colored president. The white populationj of America is now in the minority or shortly will be. What will happen as it continues to diminish?

I urge you to see THE HELP for no other reason than to reflect that "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose", the more things change, the more they are the same.

Euclid, OH
August 29, 2011

Cast, first billed only:

Emma Stone ... Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan
Viola Davis ... Aibileen Clark Bryce
Dallas Howard ... Hilly Holbrook
Octavia Spencer ... Minny Jackson
Jessica Chastain ... Celia Foote
Ahna O'Reilly ... Elizabeth Leefolt
Allison Janney ... Charlotte Phelan
Anna Camp ... Jolene French
Eleanor Henry ... Mae Mobley
Emma Henry ... Mae Mobley
Chris Lowell ... Stuart Whitworth
Cicely Tyson ... Constantine Jefferson
Mike Vogel ... Johnny Foote
Sissy Spacek ... Missus Walters
Brian Kerwin ... Robert Phelan

Trivia: Jessica Chastain, a vegan, ate soy ice cream melted in the microwave to gain weight for the role of Celia Foote.
Goofs: Anachronisms: The use of a Model 1205 Electrolux cannister vacuum cleaner, the first rectangular cannister, in a scene set in approximately 1963 is about 7 years too early.

The Help
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Author(s) Kathryn Stockett
Publisher Penguin Books
Publication date February 10, 2009
ISBN 0399155341
Dewey Decimal 813/.6 22
The Help is a 2009 novel by American author Kathryn Stockett. The story is about African American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi during the early 1960s.

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