Watching: The Help (2011)

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Exploring the racial segregation of the 1960’s, The Help is a film that incorporates a unique blend of humour and heartstrings. Speaking straight to the heart, it is a faithful adaption to the book of the same name by Kathryn Stokett. The powerhouse cast is to thank for it’s degree of success, as is the translation of the narrative from novel into film. With beautiful settings and a performance driven plot, it’s no wonder that this movie has been positively received the world over.

There are only a handful of films that have managed to make me cry and The Help is one of the lucky few. It was as intense as it was heartfelt, and I couldn’t help but adore Viola Davis’s (Prisoners, Doubt) performance as Aibileen. The entire film is well thought out and its story, although a tad predictable and melodramatic, is highly engaging and leaves the viewer asking for more. I’ve watched this with the family a few times since it’s release – and it’s just as powerful every time.

It’s the 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi as racial rights are trotted on by the hegemonic White society. Skeeter (Emma Stone), an ambitious writer working on a mundane cleaning column, becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the treatment of the coloured help by the people around her. Determined to voice out their opinions, she approaches Aibileen (Viola Davis), a maid who has raised White kids throughout her life, with the intent on writing a book on her experiences. As tensions rise between the White and the Black, Skeeter and Aibileen, along with fellow maid Minny (Octavia Spencer) and others, push through their social boundaries to expose what really happens behind closed doors and white picket fences.

The star ensemble of the film are without a doubt the film’s success. Davis is more than capable of pulling of an emotional performance, presenting the audience with a compelling act that is as touching as it is powerful. I would say that it is impossible not to feel for the characters the team gives life to, even if those emotions range from pure hate to heart wrenching pain. Stone’s (Easy A, Amazing Spiderman) act as Skeeter is, although not a strong as Davis’s is still solid and carries its own weight through the film. Although not part of the main story, an honourable mention goes out to Jessica Chastain’s (The Tree of Life, Mama) role as Celia Foote, who – like Davis – provides a surprisingly fleshed out character to the audience without overstepping her boundaries. On another note, the setting of Jackson seems to me to be highly authentic – it simply breathes a 1960’s air. Whether this vibe is used to heighten the tension between societies or to represent the simplicity of these times, Tate Taylor’s understanding of the original work is to thank for the beautifully created scenes. Add in an eloquent musical score, carefully selected costumes and the right shots – and you’ve got yourself a triumphant film that speaks for itself.

As a whole, The Help is a remarkable film that uses the talents of it’s actors to their full extent. Performances are ripe with emotions and sincerity, giving life to this beautiful and humorous fight for truth. While it at time may dip it’s toe into a melodramatic puddle, it never seems to coincide with the cliches that fill films that centre on race and ethnicity. With it’s comedic flair, topic gentility and emotional poise, The Help is a rewarding film experience that any film junkie should not go living without.

Bry Rating: 4.25/5
Recommended? Without a doubt
Country of Origin: America
Language: English

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Watching: Faces in the Crowd (2011)

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I stumbled onto a trove of Milla Jovovich films a few days ago on Netflix and sifted through what it had to offer. She’s one of my favourite actresses, so I had high hopes for Faces in the Crowd. A little research uncovered a few facts of the film that made sense after watching the film – like how it was a straight to DVD film.

With the leading star being Milla, the high hopes that I had for the film were soon crushed. It was unbelievably saddening – a film with a good premise, great actors and directing style being watered down by the predictable plot advancements and unbelievable character relationships. And when I say unbelievable, I mean it in the sense that they were unconvincing.

The film opens with the idyllic life of Anna Merchant and her boyfriend. She has it all – a loving partner, a wonderful job and a set of quirky and unique friends. Whilst she spends her time playing away on Facebook’s Farmville, a serial killer dubbed “Tearjerker Jack” murders innocent women. In a (not-so) surprising turn of events, she stumbles upon the killer slashing the throat of another victim. A short struggle ensues and Anna, waking up awhile later and suffering from prosopagnosia (“Face Blindness”), must come to terms with her illness and the paranoia of being under the constant watch of the neighbourhood murderer.

Julien Magnat, director and writer of the film, initially introduces an interesting and engaging story. Characters are given life, the setting is incredibly appealing and the story has direction. To give the audience an understanding of what the protagonist is going through, characters are constantly changing their faces, which is both unsettling and unfamiliar. But then it starts going downhill. Why is it that the lead cannot recognise voices or body shapes? Come up with reasonable solutions to help her illness? Why do characters make obvious mistakes, almost immature choices? Questions like these, coupled with the predictable nature of the film lower its value.

Make no mistake, I love Milla Jovovich and I will continue to love her. Although the film isn’t too bad, it is by no means a landmark in film history. The story is annoyingly predictable (I called so many things. Scratch that, I called the entire film), and the acting from most of the cast is in a word, subpar. I suggest watching this movie only if you’re a fan of Milla Jovovich – and even then, don’t expect to enjoy it too much.

Bry Rating: 2.5/5
Recommended? Strictly Jovovich-Fans Only.
Country of Origin: America
Language: English