The Help - Review

It's often been noted that before the civil rights era, the American South, while more racist than the North, was in one way more enlightened: Even at the vicious height of Jim Crow, blacks and whites coexisted with a casual and enduring day-to-day intimacy. They'd been living intertwined lives, after all, since the days of slavery. The Help, an emotionally enveloping, sharply alive big-canvas adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's powerful 2009 novel, is rooted in that truth more deeply than just about any Hollywood movie I can name. It understands that the ''separation'' of the races in the South wasn't just a crime — it was a grand illusion.

Early on, Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), grave and solid, with a look so impassive it takes you a moment to see the silent protest in her eyes, tells us that she's a maid just like her mother, and that her grandmother was a house slave. It's 1961, and the matter-of-fact way that she delivers that information is startling, because she's really telling us that she's a house slave too. She's just called by a different title. She also says that she has raised 17 white children, so that's another way that the word maid seems inadequate. She's a nanny — and in many ways, a surrogate mother. Read More...,,20483736,00.html


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