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Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Help

We love critics. We trust critics. We usually agree with them over audiences who will eat up any stupid, loud thing (Transformers, Pirates, Saws, most Katherine Heigl movies). But every once in a while, a movie covers issues that make the critics get all uppity. That’s why we don’t trust critics when it comes to religious or political movies. They have their opinions and audiences have theirs. Even if we agree with the critics’ politics often, we want to judge the controversial movies for ourselves.

We also hesitate to trust them when it comes to tear-jerking, sentimental movies. They’ve seen a lot of movies, they are a bunch of egg heads. They like to be superior, and they can be cynical. Also, they can be wrong when it comes to movies with moral messages and black-and-white characters. They have been taught that morality is simplistic and makes art less interesting.

The Help is one of those movies that is getting heat from a few critics. We are not sure why, because reading the reviews, most of the critics decline to give examples to support their opinions that the movie “glosses over its racist themes” or that it “occasionally flirts with utter irresponsibility.” All of this sounds like a knee-jerk, politically correct reaction to us. You can’t get conflicts like this perfectly, and the movie was true to the book, which plenty of people loved.

The reviews were mostly favorable. The only unfavorable ones with any merit were the ones that said that the movie was emotionally exhausting. We cried multiple times in this one, so bring some tissues. One blogger grew up in a southern family that had a maid. Her father was raised by one. This movie felt very true to that culture, with its manners, Junior League members, southern accents, marriage mania, obsession with how they are being perceived in society, and old-fashioned roles for women. What’s interesting is that a lot of that hasn’t changed. The maids are gone, but that’s about it. It’s cool to see how far we’ve come in some areas, but some things remain the same.

Talking to people who were around in the ‘60s, it’s amazing how many say, “They got that time just right.” My grandma was nice to her maid, but she said that she knew some people who definitely thought they were better. In a lot of ways, it’s a very healing movie, because we’re reminded that the Skeeters and Abileens of the world won and continue to usher in a more honest way of life.

So critics can whine about stereotypes, manipulation, how it was “too Disney,” “simplistic,” and too much of a feel-good movie. Yeah, it’s not subtle. Yeah the fried chicken part was…weird and stereotypical. But the audiences are loving the movie and feeling inspired by the AMAZING performances and the characters’ bravery. You rarely get a feel-good movie that feels this good.

We read the book, and we actually liked the movie better. The performances gave it an extra emotional punch. It’s rare that you feel more deeply in a movie than in the book, which has more time to work on your emotions. It was funny and affecting. Once again, Emma Stone plays the girl that smart girls who don't really fit in can relate to. Is she the new, female Tom Hanks? She's got the "everywoman" quality with none of the dowdiness.

Bottom line: If you are a woman, you will love this movie. If you are a guy, you might. If you are a critic, you might sit in your armchair with your old wine, Tolstoy in hand, and say something like, “It was droll, so very droll.” But no one will hear you over the applause like what we heard in our theater when the credits rolled.

Movie Grade: A-


  1. Finally saw this. It was good, but definitely not better than the book. I think I like the book so much better just because of all the little details and background that they had to leave out of the movie. Stewart's family for example. And while I do like it when they turn a good book into a movie, the movie always pales in comparison to my imagination.

  2. Ahhh, you're one of those. Lots of people always prefer the book, because they like the most possible information.

    We liked the movie better for three reasons. 1) The book did not have a climax. All of the danger and risk were supposed to lead up to something. Then the book was released, nothing really bad happened, and it tapered off. Leading into that is 2) There was more emotional catharsis in the movie, and, finally, 3) The performances. Lots of people had a problem with the story, but no one could deny the performances. And isn't it fun to see the clothes?

    We often prefer movies. We're looking at overall experience most of the time. We were actually thinking of doing a whole post about movies and TV that we think topped the books they were based on. Hopefully you come around to yell at us, haha.

    Don't worry. HP won't be on it. We're not that crazy. When critics were saying that HP movie 5 topped the book, we wanted to hunt them down for the slaughter.

  3. Mary Poppins is the only movie better than the book, as far as I know.

    Disagree with your three points but I'll save that since I'm typing with one hand and holding A baby with the other.