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Help, The (DQ)


Stars: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer, Sissy Spacek, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Chris Lowell, Cicely Tyson, Brian Kerwin, Aunjanue Ellis, Mary Steenburgen, Dana Ivey

Director: Tate Taylor

An emotive, if manipulative drama about the demeaning lives of black 'maids' in the still-segregated Mississippi of 1962/3.

Queen bitch of the junior-matron social set is Hilly (Howard), who keeps the 'help' in their place and out of pocket. Sport of the local litter is Skeeter (Stone) who, like many movie heroines in these faux-life dramas, is an aspiring writer, just hired by the local journal in Jackson.

Appalled by the treatment of the maids, Skeeter determines to write a long article, maybe even a book, about their experiences. She enlists Aibileen (Davis), who has cared for a string of white children and their households, and later Minnie (Spencer), who works for Hilly - until she is unjustly fired.

Minnie has her own way of getting back at her ex-employer, but it takes another, more traumatic sacking to bring in the number of maids whose stories Skeeter needs to finish her work.

Stone and Howard make good, if perhaps too sharply contrasted adversaries, and there are plum roles for Chastain, as the blonde bombshell who finds herself an outcast, and Spacek, as Hilly's lovably eccentric mother.

Perhaps, though, things are couched too much in black and white (no pun intended), the only shades of grey being handed to Janney, as Skeeter's outwardly bigoted but inwardly proud mother. Beautifully shot in Deluxe Color on its best behaviour.

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Walt Disney (Touchstone/DreamWorks). Colour by deluxe.
146 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 24 Oct 2011