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Oscar®Oscar® Winner for Actress in a supporting role
Nominee for Best Picture and Actress in a leading role
Movie Review

The Help

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material.

Reviewed by: Thaisha Geiger

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
2 hr. 17 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
August 10, 2011 (wide—2,500+ theaters)
DVD: December 6, 2011
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

Racism, Racial Issues and Christianity
Get biblical answers to racial hot-topics. Where did the races come from? How did skin color come about? Why is it important to have a biblical foundation for such issues?

slavery in the Bible

truth versus lies

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer

ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer


mercy, love and grace

emotional manipulation / intimidation

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

friendship / sisterhood

Moral courage

CHANGE THE WORLD—A single man or woman can help change the world. Read about some who did with faith and God’s help…
Jesus Christ, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David

Featuring: Emma StoneEugenia ’Skeeter’ Phelan
Bryce Dallas HowardHilly Holbrook
Mary SteenburgenElain Stein
Viola DavisAibileen Clark
Sissy SpacekMissus Walters
Cicely TysonConstantine Jefferson
Jessica ChastainCelia Foote
Octavia SpencerMinny Jackson
Mike Vogel … Johnny Foote
more »
Director: Tate Taylor
Producer: Chris Columbus … producer
Reliance Big Entertainment
1492 Pictures
DreamWorks Pictures
more »
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“Change begins with a whisper.”

Copyrighted, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Statistics show that up to 90% of working black women during post slavery ended up being the domestic help for upper-class white families. Raising white children and getting meager pay, these women often silently endured racial injustice.

Skeeter (Emma Stone) is a recent Ole Miss graduate. Unlike her childhood friends, she isn’t married and instead wishes to launch a writing career. Her polar opposite and socialite leader is Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard). Though she’s organizing a charity drive for African children, she’s also trying to pass a bill where all white households would be required to have a separate bathroom for their colored help. Not only would this increase the value of the home, she also believes this separation would ensure sanitation. Her current maid is Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer). During a tornado, Hilly catches Minny trying to use the inside bathroom and promptly fires the longtime help.

Minny’s best friend is Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis). A quiet woman, Aibileen is currently raising her seventeenth white child and is aghast at how neglectful her current employer is with her own daughter. She’s also mourning the loss of her son. When Skeeter conjures up the idea of writing an exposé on what it’s like to be the help, Aibileen initially refuses to assist. However, she and Minny soon realize that through this project, they can be heard.

The film has heart to it, and Aibileen and Minny are the most well-rounded characters. Some of the upper female socialites threaten to be racist caricatures, but even they have their moments of doubt. Though Aibileen is noble, I enjoyed Minny’s character much more. Yes, she does have her fierce attitude, but she’s also very loyal and ends up being a mentor to a white social outcast later on in the film, even showing her the magic of Crisco.

Perhaps the film’s biggest drawback is its lacking of gritty realism. The movie has a very feel-good attitude to it. At the dawn of the Civil Rights era, the racial tensions and injustices were way more extreme, especially in the South. Then again, to its defense, “The Help” is a film, not a documentary. So though, it could have shown worse sufferings, it still helps present a personal glimpse on the lives of two women and their stories.

I found the trailer to be somewhat misleading; it presents Skeeter as the heroine of the film. While she is the one who created the idea of writing down the women’s story, her character is less developed and doesn’t come to the rescue of the hired help. Aibileen and Minny are what keep the story going, and Skeeter becomes their written voice. In this alone, the film receives accolades from me, since the black women never pitied themselves, but decided to share their stories because of their own inner strength.

“The Help” does have some areas of concerns in its content. The profanity is around the 24 mark, including 5 GD, 5 sh_t, 7 d_mn, 2 as_, and 4 hell. There are several uses of “Oh, Lord”. However, the maids were church-going, so I’m not sure if all of these are misused. I only heard one use of the word n_gger and a handful of negra.

It’s worth mentioning that the cast is predominately female, and the majority of men take a backseat. Most are either absent or weak minded. In one case, one’s physically abusive to his wife (off screen). The only strong male character I recall is Aibileen’s minister.

Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) is considered white trash among the socialites of Jackson. Through the film, she wears very tight clothing and low-cut shirts and dresses. In one scene, she drinks too much and vomits. In wanting to be a good housewife, she hires Minny, without her husband’s knowledge, to help her around the house. She later reveals that she got married when she had gotten pregnant.

There’s a karma-like theme interwoven through the film. One of the black maids seeks revenge on her former employer who is a very scornful racist. She bakes her a pie, containing feces. This avengement turns out to be quite an embarrassment to its recipient and to her horror, it’s brought up numerous times throughout the film. Many of these situations are portrayed as deserving, and it is tempting to laugh, though in Proverbs 24:17, it says:

“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.”

Though Aibileen is understandably reluctant to share her story with Skeeter, her minister’s Sunday sermon later changes her mind. It is a very fitting sermon and one of my favorite moments in the Old Testament. It is when the Lord called Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. Though Moses is famously known for the ten plagues of Egypt and parting the Red Sea, he didn’t immediately jump on board when God called him to serve.

In actuality, he was extremely hesitant and spent the majority of Exodus 3 and 4, questioning God with different what-if scenarios and the validity of his own self-worth. In his glorious awesomeness, God patiently countered Moses’ objections. Like Aibileen, Moses questioned the power of his own words. In Exodus 4:11-12, the Lord said,

“Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

I do recommend “The Help” to those who like heartfelt dramas. I felt the film was very well-acted (one of the best casts in recent memory). Yes, the film does have its flaws, but I felt it was very involving and provided something other than the empty value of entertainment Hollywood has steadily provided, as of late. I do have to say that I’ve never read the book, but friends have told me that they found the film adaptation to be an accomplishment. Perhaps my favorite lesson from the movie was the triumph of truth. Nothing was magically fixed, but voices were heard.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—This is an enjoyable film, thanks to the artistic merit of the film, although the subject matters are the very serious subjects of racism and segregation. The characters are very well defined, the story is crystal clear to understand, the themes are interwoven skillfully, with good pacing and timing, and the acting is stellar.

In the case of Viola Davis, who plays a central figure, she adds depth and dimension to her role that really renders her performance a tour de force. Although I expected clichés, they were not really there for me; the material was fresh and interesting. I am old enough to remember this shameful period of American history. This movie brings focus to this era in a credible way.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Halyna Barannik, age 65 (USA)
Positive—As a strong Evangelical Christian, and someone who has read (and loved) the book, I would say this film deserves a moral rating better than the “average.” The women are courageous and yet… real! Skeeter is not a model. She is awkward, fumbling, a social sore-thumb. But she puts her moral standards and passion for racial equality above even romance. She doesn’t compromise.

Aibileen has raised 17 children, 16 of them white, even after the death of her own son—though she is treated with such racism by the parents (even being forced to use a separate bathroom because she “carries disease”), she treats the children with compassion and love. In the film she is raising Mae Mobley, who is rejected by her mother because the child is chubby and plain. Aibileen lavishes the child with acceptance and love, teaching her: “You are smart, you are kind, you are important.”

A recent teaching series I was watching is called “The Power of a Whisper” by Bill Hybels, concerning God’s “whisper” from the Holy Spirit. The tagline of this movie? “Change begins with a whisper.” And that’s what these women did. They showed that ordinary people can, truly, make a difference.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Emily, age 24 (USA)
Positive—My husband and I went to see this movie on its opening day. We really enjoyed the movie and felt that the writing, directing and acting were exceptionally well done. Although it showed some harsh realities of the past, it also showed the power of endurance, truth, and courage. The profanity was mild, and the violent scene(s) were done off-screen. The movie was entertaining, and had meaning and purpose, something you don’t see enough of from Hollywood.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—S. Mcdonald, age 37 (USA)
Positive—The truth is, I really did like the movie. What ruined it for me though? Honestly, I wish I would have checked here FIRST, before going to see it at all, as even ONE TIME of God’s name being taken in vain is TOO MUCH for me!! No, it’s not that we are prudes, it’s just that above all, we should guard our hearts, and our God reigns supreme and almighty, and His name is not to be flippantly tossed about and definitely NOT to be taken in vain!! I absolutely cringe when hearing that in movies (or elsewhere!) and yes, good movies COULD be made without it!!

Funny (and sadly), all the other cuss words the reviewer mentions and counts did not even click in my head, as we live in such a fallen world that we’ve become desensitized to such language. Would like to see this movie again—however, will wait till it comes out on DVD and even then, will find a filter for the DVR!! If you could just filter out God’s Name vainly taken, then this is mostly a movie directed to the ladies—primarily middle age and up, in my opinion. The auditorium was full during a matinee.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—RJ, age 52 (USA)
Positive—This was a good movie. The story line was very moving, and the acting excellent. Though not a true story, it has a strong sense of realism. While not everyone walked in perfect Christ-likeness, it did depict people of faith striving to live in a way that honored God. I would recommend this movie to any adult.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Michael Hanlon, age 57 (USA)
Positive—I thought this was a really, really well done movie that portrayed a sad time in our nation’s history. It it a bit over the top, as the only white people shown are those that have maids, and I assure you my family did not have a maid back in those days. It is painful to think that one group of people would ever treat another group of people that badly, no matter the reason. It was a poignant and moving movie. I would warn that there is a large amount of profanity. I know people have cussed from the beginning of time, but I think much was added in the movie for shock value.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Wesley, age 48 (USA)
Positive—I saw this movie with my twelve year old daughter; I am the grandmother of three bi-racial children. I had never read the book. The story line is excellent and displays the reality of life during those times in this country. It was excellently written, with truth and humor, of a situation that could have just been so disheartening. It displayed the strength of character of some of these women who chose to make the best of their situations. In the midst of despair, injustice, and cruelty, they found a way to raise their children and become women of honor.

The wrong choice by one of the maids was quickly shown to have consequences; while they were harsh by today’s standards, they were real for that time in this country. Her wrong choice was not made “okay” or justified because she had good reason.

The strength of faith of the two main characters was realistically portrayed. There was true compassion offered when the choice could have been made to turn a back to a white woman who was in need of guidance. The choice to speak truth, even when it could have brought extremely harsh treatment, and even death, had me wanting to stand up and applaud. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Diana, age 54 (USA)
Positive—A great story and a well done movie. It is painful, at times, to see how people were treated, but it still ends in triumph. This is an adult movie, because the story goes way over the heads of children. Great, great acting. Go see it!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Joe, age 63 (USA)
Positive—This is an excellent film, and, for the first time in a long while, I became so engrossed in the story that I forgot I was in the theatre! It’s a gripping film with a good message. I agree that it deserves a better than average rating. Although there is some swearing, there is a spiritual element to the film, and when one of the characters tries to get even with her unfair employer, later she asks God for forgiveness.

I don’t like how there are two brief mentions of Jesus” name in vain, at the beginning, as well as a few OMG’s. However, the characters are very moral, and the servants attend church. There is no pre-martial sex, but one character mentions she got married because she was pregnant. There is a reference to homosexuality, when one character’s mother wonders if she likes men, as she can’t get a boyfriend (she isn’t).

more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Kathy, age 51 (Canada)
Positive—Excellent movie. The entire cast was excellent, but especially Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Emma Stone. Although I did miss some scenes from the book, and a few things were changed, I felt that the filmmakers did a superb job of condensing a five-hundred page book into a film. In its message, I feel that the movie is just as moving as the book, if not more so.

Actually, listening to Hilly Holbrook, a supposedly “Christian” woman, spouting off her racist beliefs, I was grieved to the point of tears to realize that, while the church—and America—have come a long way, they still haven’t gotten anywhere near as far as they should. I know people—believers and non-believers alike—who are still just as racist as Hilly, even though it’s been 50 years since that story would have taken place. Oh, that we could all come to know how much Jesus loves us; that we are all precious in His sight, all made in the image of God, all beautiful to Him.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Sarah C., age 21 (USA)
Positive—What a wonderful film! Finally something I could sit back and enjoy that had a meaty story. Very well acted and directed. If you read the book then you know how close the director stuck to the story. Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, and company were awesome in their roles. I laughed and cried as did most of the audience. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the whole place. At the end everyone was very quiet and no one moved until the credits were done. Please see this movie. I’m sure it will be one of the best if not THE best of the year.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Reba, age 40+ (USA)
Positive—I always enjoy watching a good historical drama, and this film did not disappoint. It would be great for a mother/daughter night out. I honestly cannot think of a single thing to complain about. This movie had just the right balance of humor, drama, and heart.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Kadie Jo, age 19 (USA)
Positive—I believe this was a good movie, in that it accurately portrayed the views and lives of “the help” during that time in America. The way they were mistreated, yet continued to have faith and live their faith despite the attitudes of the people they worked for is a lesson for us all.

The thing that spoiled it for me was the language. I realize the movie makers sought to give their viewers a taste of life as it was, but had I known that God’s name was going to be used as a cuss word, and as many times as it was, I would have waited until it came out on DVD and watched it on my Clearplay.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Corrinne, age 45 (USA)
Positive—“The Help” is a good movie with many godly morals. I do agree that blaspheming God’s name is not needed, but one honestly does not need to watch TV to find such ungodliness; he/she who has never blasphemed God’s name, cast the first stone, otherwise, Matthew 7:1-2; PRAY for people, don’t condemn. Good is portrayed as good, evil is portrayed as evil, repentance and forgiveness are glorified, and truth shines through. I especially love the song at the end (“The Living Proof”), which can be perfectly allegorious to a Christian life (the song).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Peter, age 22 (USA)
Neutral—I recommend this movie for adult women, no men or children. I do recommend this film but also want to strongly caution viewing it. I struggled when I was deciding to watch it or not due to language and nudity as well as strong graphic scenes. For example, a character named Celia Foote is often in tight clothing and/or showing her bust.

The language is spread out through the movie, usually in response to something happening so you can ‘guess’ when it is about to air but its clearly there and can’t be missed. NOTE: mute it when Minny is giving Hilly the pie.

As for the graphic scenes, for example there is a lot of discussion about the ‘colored bathrooms’ and in more than one scene it shows colored ladies using the toilet. With that said, the reason I recommend it, is because of the strong history and almost documentary feel this movie has. You get a sneak peak into the lives of colored women living through racism.

I felt the movie has a strong story line and keeps you glued to find out what happens next. Or what becomes of this character or that one. It does have many moving scenes but portrays scenarios in more real life fashion rather than Hollywood style.

For example, a black man is killed by the KKK, nothing is shown only the after math of people trying to hurry home and whatnot. Yet you get a strong sense of what that must have been like for the characters.

I recommend the movie, but not if the strong language disgusts you and do not allow your husband to watch it—it really is meant for women.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jenny, age 30 (USA)
Negative—I agree that the story line was excellent, but I was very offended by the language. There were 2 obvious misuses of Jesus name and nearly 10 of God’s name, 4 of which were G… d… ! Why, when the Bible clearly says not to take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, is it ok to overlook it in the name of good entertainment? I really don’t think as Christians we should.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Sharon, age 45 (USA)
Negative—This movie has been part of my DVD collection for the past three years. I treasured it, until I gained my salvation and learned a bit about how to live as a Christian. I sat down this evening to watch one of “my favorites” and was shocked when only a few minutes into the movie Mr. Blackly, the editor, starts using profanity “Shut the G*d D**m door,” and I immediately turned it off.

While this movie does a have a good message about equality and fair treatment, realizing it also contains unnecessary profanity has turned me off. What really shocked me, it’s only been since I started looking at my TV and movie viewing with a regard to my soul that I even noticed how bad this is. Will not be returning to “The Help” anytime in the foreseeable future.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Scott R, age 44 (Canada)
Comments from young people
Negative—This movie, I found, was not all that people say it was. It may have good morals in it, but I found many things very offensive about this movie. Not only was God’s name taken in vain many times, twice with the word d**n, but there was some very crude humour in this movie that I thought shouldn’t actually be put in a movie. I thought that the person who scripted “The Help” was very, very bold in the content they put in the movie.

I understand that some of it could have been true in the era of the movie, given the racism and such, but I personally think it would be better to read it in a book or just use my imagination. This movie does have some good morals in that racism should not be tolerated, but I did find this movie rather offensive and quite over the top as crude humour goes. I don’t recommend this movie to anyone who cannot stand to hear such crude comments and God’s name taken in vain so many times.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Alyssa, age 16 (Canada)
Positive—“The Help” is a wonderful movie with great acting! It easily has the best cast of any movie this year, and it is possibly the best movie I’ve seen this year. The best performance comes from Octavia Spencer, although Viola Davis and Jessica Chastain are spectacular, as well. Everyone should see this film!…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—C, age 14 (USA)
Positive—I think film is brilliant, because it shows how the black people were treated by the majority of people back then, and how important it is to stand up against what is wrong and not to just go with what other people say. This film has really good morals, I think, because it shows how just one person’s kindness can do such a lot and change such a lot in others’ lives. I think it is a message to us all to behave to others in kindness, especially if we see something that isn’t right or someone not being treated right.

This film has got a lot of facts in it and history about how the black (women) people were treated and what they were not allowed to do. I love this film because it is funny, sad and has a good message. Objectionable content: There is some language during the film, but there is one scene which has most of it, and I think that makes the film seem to have more language, when it doesn’t. In this scene, there are a few “sh*t” “s. Really recommend this film, I think it’s a must see! One thing is for certain, after watching this film you won’t want to eat pie again.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Connie, age 15 (United Kingdom)

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