To say I am not The Help’s target audience is to say damn near my whole peace—this schmaltzfest is clearly huntin’ for the heart-strings (attached directly to the purse-strings) of bigger game than I, and if I happened to get caught in the crossfire, well, that’s really nobody’s fault but my own.
Or Hilary’s, really, for being unable to attend the screening, but hey, now’s not the time to accurately place blame.
So, if you’ve got an empty tin of calcium chews collecting pennies in your breakfast nook, then do I have the feel-good hit of the summer for you!
Go, with my blessing. Like, right now. Seriously, you can find out who the fourth person you’ll meet in heaven is when you get back, now git.
With that out of the way, I can only assume the rest of you to be the morbidly curious or anxiously anticipating date night, so hey, might as well break it down, shall we? We got a fist sized wall of off-white to fill.
The Help is Mad Men meets Mean Girls meets a particularly light shade of The Color Purple (Orchid?) meets Bridesmaids. White people get dressed up in purty VINTAGE outfits, then they act all CATTY to one another, then something kinda, but not too, RACIST happens, and then a TOILET is employed for comedic effect. Then straight back to the doofy-hairstyles and smoking to do it all over again. And this happens for two hours. And seventeen minutes.
Hell, let’s take a look at the first 20 minutes: recent Ole-Miss grad and resident tell-it-like-it-is-er Skeeter (Emma Stone) rolls on back into her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi in her VINTAGE Cadillac and headscarf, and quickly lands a job writing a cleaning column in the local paper. Her pregnancy-obsessed society girl-pals, lead by queen bee Millie (Bryce Dallas Howard) are nonplussed by this development, seeing as it has nothing to do with a uterus, and proceed to act very CATTY. Seeds of future discord are sown been Skeeter and Millie when the gleefully announces that she has put forward a totally RACIST initiative that will keep black people from pooping in her TOILET. Skeeter smokes some cigarettes, Millie snubs the film’s designated zany blonde, Skeeter realizes that Jim Crow laws are kinda fucked, and Millie is driven to hysterics by the sound of a flushing toilet.
Two hours. And seventeen minutes.
You might have noticed that I haven’t yet made any mention of the film’s titular characters—you know, the long-suffering maids and cooks laboring under centuries of institutional racism that this is all ostensibly supposed to be about. Because, quite honestly, this isn’t about them. It’s about the brave white people who had to endure not getting invited to next Thursday’s bridge game because they had the moral wherewithal just as progressive and thoughtful as the people sitting in the theater.
“This ain’t about me,” Skeeter says at one point. An hour later “Just one story left to tell—mine.” Gonna call BS on that one, Skeets.
The point at which The Help threatens to totter over from the merely insipid to the legitimately insulting is in its equivocation of lunch table high school-politics with social institutions designed to deprive and dehumanize an entire segment of the populace. CATTY and RACIST are separate but equal things in this movie, and last time I checked, that arrangement never works out too well.
Am I being completely fair? No, not really.
Two hours. And seventeen minutes.
RATED | PG-13
OPENS | 8.10.11