Not My Piece of Pie

10 Aug

The premise is cringe-worthy and racially-charged: In the early 1960s, a white young woman in Jackson, Miss., interviews black housekeepers to learn what it’s really like to work for such cruel and racist families. And yet, The Help tells its story with a fair amount of love and respect, so it is not as offensive as it could have been. Much of that is due to the dignified and heartfelt performance of Viola Davis, and of course, much credit also goes to writer/director Tate Taylor, a childhood friend of Kathryn Stockett, on whose book this film is based. (Octavia Spencer, another longtime friend of Stockett’s who inspired one of the characters, also gives a notable performance.)

But love will only take you so far. While much care may have gone into the making of The Help, the movie itself will not be a winner for all audiences. It’s a “women’s picture” — which is to say not a dumb romantic comedy “chick-flick” — and I’m definitely not the target audience. I also didn’t really dig yet another story about an idealist young white woman who redeems the persecuted black community. I’m just not sure Davis or Spencer’s characters would ever have told so much to fresh-from-college Skeeter, even if she is played by the in-demand Emma Stone. So The Help, while not an awful movie, gets just a B from me. No doubt it will be beloved by many who’ve read the book, but it’s not my piece of pie.

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