The Help is a surprisingly affecting tale of race relations in Jackson, Mississippi during the civil rights movement. It is the story of "the help," black women who work as nannies and maids to rich white Southern belles, as told by budding author Skeeter (Stone). She asks Aibileen (Davis) and Minny (Spencer) to tell her what it's really like to work as the help, despite the significant danger publishing such an account would pose to everyone who contributes. Aibileen describes what it's like working for Elizabeth (O'Reilly), an incompetent young mother who plans to have another daughter because the daughter she already has is unattractive. Minny describes being fired by Hilly (Howard), the quietly racist, fervently superior, self-appointed ringleader of the young women in town, for using the indoor toilet during a tornado instead of the outhouse.
The story is predictably emotional at times, treading exquisitely close to melodrama, while mixing in equal parts entertainment and humor. This movie is blessed to have a competent director and eagle-eyed editor, who understand the heart of the story and let it shine through any fluff. The script is sensational, brought to life by superb acting. Viola Davis does a phenomenal job; her expressive face and subtle movements (a shift in body weight, a hesitance in her response) are able to convey incredibly complex feelings. Bryce Dallas Howard gives a riveting performance that combines charm and slime to create a wholly unlikeable young matriarch. But the movie is about more than racism and more than events in the past: it is about parenting, about unexpected relationships, and about the courage and sacrifice required to do the right thing. This is a gripping film from beginning to end and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1454029/