The Help ★★★
This 1960s-set civil rights drama has a bright, friendly style that masks its harder truths. It earned four Oscar nominations in 2012, with Octavia Spencer taking home the award for best supporting actress. She plays the junior of two African-American maids working in a moneyed white neighbourhood in Jackson, Mississippi; the other being Viola Davis (who was also Oscar nominated). Jessica Chastain co-stars as a wealthy, friendless socialite who takes on Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard is the town snob and Emma Stone the aspiring author who hopes to expose the racism suffered by “the helps”. Written and directed by a man, Tate Taylor (from the novel by Kathryn Stockett), it’s a powerfully female-centric tale told on behalf of the socially downtrodden. Its appeal lies in the performances, although I must warn you, some do tip into caricature.
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