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Review: HELP, THE


HELP, THE , USA , 2011 , MPAA Rating : PG-13 for thematic material

There are few times then the deletion of one scene can change the entire tenor of a film, and a fine example of that is to be found in one of the deleted scenes of THE HELP. As screenwriter/director Tate Taylor explains, the final episode of the book, though filmed and beautifully acted by stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, detracted from the sense of hope that Taylor with which Taylor wanted to leave the audience. Though a relative newcomer, the decision, and the way he explains it on the DVD disk of the BLU-RAY+DVD release of THE HELP, demonstrates the emotional sensitivity that the film as a whole exhibits.

The DVD disc also includes a video by Mary J. Bligeís ďThe Living ProofĒ. Itís the BLU-RAY that has all the good stuff, including the behind the scenes featurette that visits locations for the film, and visits with the delightfully eccentric people who actually live in the houses used. The best part is looking at the long and close relationship Taylor has enjoyed with Spencer and Kathryn Stockett, the writer of the novel on which the film is based. Taylor and Stockett, friends since the age of five, grew up together as the non-conformists of their group in Jackson, MI, and listening them talk about each other and the way each egged the other on to success is both entertaining and moving. Spencer, who was the model for her character, Minny and Stockett explains how, became TateĎs friend when they worked together behind the camera on A TIME TO KILL, and then roommate when they moved to Los Angeles. There is something about the drawl of a true southern accent that adds a rich authenticity to the storytelling, as does Viola Davisí voiceover reading in the film of the Jim Crow laws that kept her character from equal rights. The most unexpected moment isnít Stockett explaining that she can talk bad about Jackson, but no one else better, but rather, how the comfort Stockett most wanted after 9/11 was the maid who had helped raise her. Stockett, Taylor, and Spencer also delve into the maddeningly nuanced and tangled issues of race relations that occur in the book, and in their relationship. Itís brave and bold in its honesty. Mostly, though, itís the way Stockett and Taylor pay tribute to the maids that were part of their families and their hearts. And for Spencer, a chance to celebrate her mother and her struggles in a way she never would have dreamed possible.

THE HELP, bonus material and feature film is a subtle exploration of all that, done with an inviolate truth, but choosing, like that decision to delete a scene from the final cut, to believe in the best that human beings can be if given the chance. The story of how the novel came to be published against all odds, the film to be made with Taylor as director, once known become integral to the film experience. Perfectly written, acted, directed, and produced, itís as close to perfect as a film can be, and as moving on its fiftieth viewing as on its first.


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