The Help

Viola Davis in The Help

{The Help opened in Seattle on Wednesday, 8/10 and is playing at the Metro, Oak Tree Cinemas, Majestic Bay and AMC Pacific Place} 

I am one of the only women on earth who hasn’t read Kathryn Stockett’s amazingly popular book, The Help, so I have no idea how close this film adaptation is to the beloved story or not—but I guess I’ll find out shortly when there’s either tons of outrage or tons of applause.

But honestly I can’t imagine anyone being outraged (except maybe some rich white ladies who grew up in Jackson, Mississippi during the 60s), since The Help does its job as an empowering dramedy well, with enough heart and substance to make it better than what you’re expecting.

The story revolves around recently returned from college Eugenia (the amazing Emma Stone, stuck with some atrociously bad curly hair) annoyingly nicknamed “Skeeter,” who would rather take a low-paying job answering cleaning advice letters at the local paper than engage in the time-honored Jackson tradition of hunting for an eligible husband.

When her mother won’t answer her questions about where the maid who raised her is, Skeeter turns to Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis, who is guaranteed to get nominated for an Oscar, and definitely deserves to win), a maid for one of the many young society woman ruled by the uber-bitchy Hilly Holbrook. When Aibileen is reluctant to tell her the truth, Skeeter notices for the first time that “the help” are basically treated like dogs and not people, which sparks the idea for a book—providing that she can get anyone to talk to her.

Fortunately for Skeeter, Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard putting on her best bitch face) and the other women of Jackson are so consistently horrible to their help—and their kids—that all the maids decide to band together and take a stand by telling their stories. Predictably, Minny Jackson (a part totally rocked by Octavia Spencer), Hilly’s long-suffering maid, has some of the best, which threaten to upset the redhead’s ruling Queen of society position, and force her to take a turn from mean and spoiled to vindictive and ruthless.

I’m sure you call can guess where the story ends up, but there’s no need for me to spoil it. And while there are some predictable moments, the reason The Help succeeds is because even though there are triumphs, they’re not easy—and the spectacularly strong cast (special mention here for Jessica Chastain, who plays an outcast so charming and vulnerable you want to give her hugs every time you see her) takes it to the level it needs to be at so it’s believable and not cheesy.

The Help is pretty much just what you want from a good, girly movie: lots of laughter, strong characters, and of course, those melodramatic moments that make you all weepy. Tissue is definitely required, as is a good friend.