The Help: directed and written by Tate Taylor
It’s become difficult to separate Tate Taylor’s The Help from the plethora of internet argument that has followed it since its release.There was a blogathon some time back questioning whether or not films have an ethical service to pay to viewers. I think no, I’ve always maintained that art shouldn’t be impugned with having to hold some sort of utilitarian purposes before it could be endorsed. Still, I don’t want to turn this into a rote “response” review, because that really establishes little of how I feel about the film. The Help is, at its root, an ensemble drama created from a web of interwoven storylines. Like any ensemble the overall attempts at entwining sometimes fall limp and it’s that dichotomy between the storylines that land and those that falter that exists as the main crutch of The Help. Even though, conversely, it’s the rapport of the cast even amidst the occasional unwieldy plot arcs that puts it back on its feet again.
Taylor has his work cut out for him because The Help attempts to toe that delicate line between humour and drama which is already difficult enough without the added difficulty of doing so with in a time when that tenuous balance is attempting to address something with as much gravity. Unsurprisingly, he approaches the issue of the genre mixing with the sort of occasional hokey plotting that marks those well intended ensemble dramas. The thing about being hokey is that sometimes it works and I’m immediately reminded of Herbert Ross and the work he did on Steel Magnolias - treading a wellworn path but occasionally breathing surprising amounts of sincerity into it through the performances. And, boy those performances are something. Mostly. It’s the trio of Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and a luminous Jessica Chastain who thrills with a role painted all too broadly to be deserve such a earnest handling.
Downgraded to a B-