Today: February 22, 2024
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The Help

Of the newest generation to be released from Hollywood, Emma Stone was pegged as the one to watch.

Of the newest
generation to be released from Hollywood, Emma Stone was pegged as the one to
watch.

Making her first notable debut in Superbad, Stone has built her reputation thus far in comic roles,
from the questionable House Bunny to
quirky teen flick Easy A and the
recent Crazy Stupid Love. Her
casting as Gwen Stacey in the revamp of Spiderman
showed the first indication Stone was set for a career that wasn’t condemned to
comedy (see the unsung Anna Faris).

Stone was due for a more challenging role and it comes in Eugenia
“Skeeter” Phelan, the catalyst in Tate
Taylor
’s The Help for black maids in suburban 50s America to make a stand
against their superiors and reveal the truths about their treatment. Ditching
her scarlet bouffe for some unflattering mousey curls, Skeeter is one of
Mississippi’s fine young socialites. Her bland appearance and sharp mouth have
cast her apart from her peers, making her both kinder and more ambitious and,
after accepting a position at her local paper, she decides her ticket out of
cow town is to write an article about something that disturbs her, hence “The
Help.”

Stone’s presence in the film serves only as a platform for
the women that raised her and her friends to reveal details of their lives as
kept women. There is little room for reflection however, with focus instead on
the daily struggle that the women face from their mistresses, mainly Hilly (a
convincingly horrid Bryce Dallas Howard)
and their quiet rebellion through acts as little as using the same toilet. The
maids fill the majority of Skeeter’s story, friends Minny and Aibeleen, both
thoughtfully cast and portraying a convincing friendship that defies their
day-to-day challenges.

Skeeter also faces personal battles, be it with her cancer-fighting,
easily-influenced mother or her turbulent love life. But it is these character defining
conflicts that make her form this bond with the town’s servants and Stone does
well to portray the sort of defiance that makes her stand out against the
backdrop of segregated America.

Each of the central and supporting cast bring powerful
performances to a story that was going to need some force behind it. Taylor
does well to weave the current lives of the maids and their masters together,
using events of the time (the shooting of human rights activist Medgar Evers,
Kennedy’s campaign for equality) to bring as many concepts of society at the
time to the surface. Taylor works to highlight the shift in attitudes, most
notably with Jessica Chastain’s Celia,
whose bare-faced innocence surpasses the torrent of difference that swelled in
America.

To get a proper insight into The Help’s characters the plot
sometimes becomes overdrawn, and Stone is clearly the driving star factor as
she does not feature as heavily in the plot as Aibileen and Minny. With subject
matter this raw, this was bound be a hard hitting tale. The harsh conformities
of the young female faces of Mississippi are brash and condemning and, when
moments of hope and sincerity are used, they are subtle
but nonetheless effective.

Having already performed well at the US box office, The Help
will easily please audiences here, proving that a good story with roots
embedded in fact will have equal impact to this season’s frankly mediocre
blockbuster offerings.

Beth Webb - Events Editor

I aim to bring you a round up of the best film events in the UK, no matter where you are or what your preference. For live coverage of events across London, follow @FilmJuice

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