Illustration: Adeline Pericart
We laughed, we cried, we sneaked in our own popcorn. 2011 brought with it some memorable trips to the cinema to revel in the joy of film. And so the Film Ireland collection of filmbots look back in love and recall their favourite films of the last year in the latest installment of…
‘… you should, nay, you need, to watch this film …’
Maybe I’m biased as a journalist, but I’m a sucker for any film that depicts the life changing power of the written word. In 2011, The Help, not only made me laugh and cry, it gave me an overwhelming sense of pride that good will prevail – when aided, slightly, by a passionate journalist.
Kathryn Stocketts 2009 ‘button-pushing’ novel, was reworked for the silver screen by screenplay writer and director Tate Taylor.
The film is set in Jackson, Mississippi, during the peak of the 1960’s civil rights era. The ensemble piece follows the lives of the young radical white would-be-journalist Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan (Emmas Stone). Appalled by the second class treatment of the coloured maids, Skeeter befriends the humble Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) and the rambunctious loud-mouthed Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer).
Minny is a comically stereotypically maid, refusing to succumb to the humiliation inflicted on her by her white employers. She is the scourned maid to a prudish Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) and, after a disagreement over using the shared bathroom, is motivated to divulge the monstrosities she encountered at the mercy of her employers to the wide eyed Skeeter.
While her stories, actions and entertaining facial expressions bring a lightness to the film, it is Aibileen’s heart rendering tale of loss that reminds us of the true horrors and struggles of the civil rights movement.
Skeeter drafts the maids stories into a book which is accepted for publication by an editor at Harper Row, New York providing the young writer can find another dozen maids to contribute. With racial tensions running high, other maids are fearful of the project, and refuse to participate and remain at the mercy of their affluent employers.
It is not until after the unjustified assassination of activist Medgar Evers and the arrest of Holbrooks young maid, that the maids realise Skeeters book could provide them with the voice they so desperately seek.
In, what was for me, the most emotionally uplifting scene of the film (again, I am a sucker for this sort of thing), the oppressed women join together and share their heart-wrenching tales. In a bid to protect their own identities, Minny shares with them the story of ‘The Terrible Awful’, a tale which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Revenge is sweet’. As predicted, the story of how she got her own back on Hilly Holbrook, ensures that once the book is published, tough the stories bare resemblence to Jackson, Holbrook insists it is not her who is depicted in the humiliating story.
The film is Stones finest performance to date. Stone still possesses that lovable nerdiness we’ve previously seen in Easy A and Superbad but simultaneously proves she has the charisma, talent and vulnerability to pull off a serious lead role.
Taylor too shines, with a successful transition from actor to director.
If you want to laugh; watch this film. If you want to cry; watch this film. And, if like me, you know all the words of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, then you should, nay, you need, to watch this film.