I had heard good reviews, bad reviews, and one a-bit-boring review by the time I saw The Help last night. I actually have always hated the uniforms and yes, ma’ams that are part of life for the actual maids I’ve met. I’d be much more Minnie than any of the others in the movie.
I just put all that aside, and went to see what was going on. This is an excellent movie! Some tears, some laughing, lots of reality. The white women were spot on and played well – imitating a life that was already gone, but hadn’t hit Jackson, MS yet. A few years later in the 60’s and it vanished.
The black women were more complex, more nuanced, working through symbols and light touches, with pain never far away. Skeeter was occasionally a bit more naive than warranted, I thought. And I expect her earning the trust of Aibileen was a lot tougher than portrayed. After all – everything was on the line for the maids – Skeeter could always move somewhere else.
It was also, at another level, a portrayal of a paradigm shift. Earth-shaking at that time, and done in slower motion over a longer stretch – but a smaller mirror of the one we’re going through right now. With the same driving force, essentially – choose love or choose fear. Dare the new or cling to the old as it dies beneath your fingers. Eyes wide open or closed tight shut.
Paradigm shifts are like walking tightropes – easy to see later where it all was going, but at the moment just keeping one foot on the wire as we shift our own weight to take that next step. The Help might assist in keeping that balance.