The Help (dir. Tate Taylor), based on the best-selling book by Kathryn Stockett, has a lot going for it: super-amazing actresses, a go-get-em spunk, and a backdrop of backwards racist Mississippi (good thing that’s a thing of the past!). The adaptation of the book was done deftly, almost as if by some sort of wondrous adaptation-writing cyborg with the efficiency of a robot, but the tears of a human, perhaps in anticipation of a time in the near future when sentient machines,too, are treated as second-class citizens. However, The Help, the movie, had a fatal flaw: it didn’t believe in itself quite hard enough. A combination of a tampon-commercial-like aesthetic, sappy, overwrought music, and unimaginative shot composition lent The Help all of the tawdry gracelessness of a Lifetime Original. Granted, you can sorta see how this could happen.
For-Women-Only-Oxygen-TV-Movie Titles for Various Themes in The Help:
- My “Frenemies” are Gossiping About Me
- My Mom Brutally Scrutinizes My Appearance…And Has Cancer
- I Can’t Hide My Bruises When You Hit Me in the Face, Darling
- I Have Kids, Think About Babies, and/or Take Care of Children in General…I Must Be a Woman
- Is My Drinking Hurting My Fetus? (book only)/ My Husband Only Beats Me When He’s Drunk…Or Does He?
- The Shaming of the Slut
- No One Will Hear You Abort
- The Secret of My Dress-Making: I’m Lower-Middle Middle Class
- Friends with a Woman
- Revenge of the Crazy Lady Whose Ex I’m Dating
- If I Were Pretty Instead of Smart, I Would Have a Boyfriend
These and other themes in The Help, like baking and dream-following, are extremely difficult to portray without a Febreeze-scented air of housewifeyness. However, if The Help had just had a little more confidence, it could have pulled itself out of the sinking chick-sand and become a household classic for all the family, including those members of the family with family…members. Unfortunately, the gynocentric presentation trivialized the more important themes in the movie, specifically that little thing called civil rights. Still, The Help had heart and humor and a pie made of poop, so I thought it was pretty A-OK.