For a movie like 'The Help' to work, the cast would need to be spot on perfect and their portrayals of each character would have to be carefully crafted to avoid falling in to cliche and stereotype. For the most part, the actors succeed at pulling this off and what we are given is a heartfelt portrayal of a turbulent time for women of all races and classes.
Set in the 1960's during the civil rights movement, 'The Help' is the story of aspiring author Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) who takes a job writing a column for the local newspaper, but also has aspirations of becoming a novelist. Always going against convention and expectation, Skeeter is seen as a bit of an oddity and an outcast and especially when she begins interviewing the neighborhood house keepers.
Realizing that she has a topic for a book that, if she can get it published, could jump start her career while publicizing the lives of women who have lived in obscurity. The rest of the story involves a community divided by class and race during a time when both still mean more than a person's abilities or worth as an individual.
What I found to be most enjoyable about this movie was the sheer volume of talent on display with noteworthy performances by Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Allison Janney, and Octavia Spencer as well as Jessica Chastain who is establishing herself as a real powerhouse. Her portrayal of the often troubled and outcast Celia Foote is a show stopper and, even though not the focus of the movie, manages to portray the movie's message better than anyone else.
As far as the story itself, I thought it was decent and well put together although a little too "by the numbers" for me. A topic like racism during one of its most controversial points in American history deserved a story that could dig deeper in to the real issues and have a much stronger emotional impact than what we end up with.
Still, this was a fun and lighthearted story with some great moments, strong acting, and just enough heart to keep you invested from beginning to end. 'The Help' is definitely worth checking out and I hope it inspires people to learn more about a time in our country's history where we were still learning a lot of hard lessons about who we were while striving to become a better nation.