8:00 PM, 29th October, 2011
After graduating from the University of Mississippi, Eugenie “Skeeter” Phelan (Stone) returns home to find that local snob Hilly Holbrook (Howard) has initiated a bill to segregate bathrooms used by employers and ‘the Help’ – their African American servants. An aspiring writer, Skeeter decides to interview the previously unheard women, in order to give them a voice to speak out on their struggles in their own words. Initially rejected by both her own community and the maids, Skeeter finds that she must work to break down more than ethnic and social barriers in order to gain their trust and, ultimately, their scandalous tales.
Directed by first-timer Tate Taylor from his own adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel of the same name, The Help is a delightful and empowering film about the never-ending struggle for equal racial rights, set against the backdrop of the deep and ingrained racism of 1960s Mississippi. Although at first glance a drama heavy on sensitive and powerful issues, the film is lightened by comedic touches, aided largely by Emma Stone, fresh off her success in last year’s runaway and star-making hit Easy A. The incredibly sassy Stone handles the role of the charismatic and fearless Skeeter with aplomb, while Howard imbues her character with more than enough abhorrence for us to love to hate her.
A sweet and stirring tale, The Help will leave you smiling as the credits roll.
10:41 PM, 29th October, 2011
Some movies date with amazing rapidity – not aesthetically, as they remain enjoyable to watch, but psychologically. Rebel Without a Cause is the kind of thing I have in mind: well made, involving and nothing whatever wrong with it except that it’s informed by such a weird sub-Freudian idea of how humans behave that it might as well be showing us a different species. There aren’t many films like this, and maybe it was just the prevalence of crackpot theories of psychology in the 20th Century (from Freud to Skinner) that accounts for them. In any case, Baby Doll is the best example I can think of.
Based on a Tennessee Williams play about a nineteen-year-old sexual tease (Baker) who has a contract with her husband (Malden) to consummate their marriage on her twentieth birthday, the story follows the destructive tensions she unleashes in both her husband and his rival, a newly-arrived business magnate (Wallach). It’s overheated and lurid; it’s like seeing what human beings would be like if they’d been grown with artificial haste in greenhouses and then loosed onto the world, like so many triffids. But don’t get the impression from anything I’ve said that this is a bad movie, or a movie to laugh at. Elia Kazan directs with supreme confidence and skill, and gets his cast to lose themselves, with conviction, in their troglodyte roles. Nominated for four Academy Awards in 1956, this is both a fine film and a historical curiosity, worth seeing on both counts.