Review: The Help

bill bodkin is calling it — we’ve got some Oscar potential here …

Plot: Southern socialite and aspiring journalist Skeeter (Emma Stone) decides to write a book based on the experience of African-American maids working in white households during the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s. She must convince two of the area’s top maids Aibeliene (Viola Davis) and Minnie (Octavia Spencer) to help her with the book by telling their stories — which could cost them their jobs.

It might be a little too early in the year for this, but I’m going to call it now: The Help has the potential to be a multi-Oscar-nominated film.

Although one of the nominations will not be for Best Picture. It’s funny — the weakest part of The Help is the story. The story doesn’t captivate, it doesn’t really resonate, it’s not memorable. In fact, the film seems to be designed to produce situations that bring to the forefront its biggest strength — the acting.

The Help is a showcase for great acting and brilliant casting. The performances captivate, they resonate and they’re memorable. Viola Davis, most notable for her Oscar-nominated role in Doubt, is the heart of the film. She gives an absolutely fantastic performance as the maid matriarch Aibileen. She is able to convey Aibileen’s heartbreak and sorrow with a simple flash of her eyes. She’s able to portray this maid as someone who’s strong as Superman yet fragile as a flower. It’s a brilliant performance, one that should put her in the best actress Oscar category.

If Davis is the heart, then Octavia Spencer is the soul. As the sassy and struggling maid Minnie, Spencer delivers some of the best comedic moments but still is grounded by a sense of sadness and struggle. It’s the stuff great supporting actress nominations are made of.

The film is also a showcase for two young actresses who haven’t been able to show off their serious chops yet. Bryce Dallas Howard, who we last saw in bit roles in the last Terminator and Twilight movies, is pitch perfect as the belle (or biatch) of the ball, Hilly Holbrook. Howard has always been a background player but here she’s a force to be reckoned with and this could easily be the role that breaks her out into bigger, more meaty roles.

Then there’s Emma Stone. She’s proven she’s already a brilliant comedic actress, and here, while she’s not given the juiciest dramatic scenes, she definitely shows she can handle a serious role. She holds her own when sharing the screen with Spencer and Davis, and while she won’t be nominated for any awards, this is definitely a sign of things to come for her dramatic career.

In the end, you shouldn’t sleep on The Help. It’s a small film released in a sea of major shoot-the-works big budget epics and hyper-animated kids’ movies which’ll cause a lot of filmgoers to pass. If you’re a fan of well-acted films and have been disappointed with the current crop of summer films, you need to get out there and see The Help.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites