Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: The Help

The Help 2-Disc Bonus Pack: Blue-Ray + DVD Bonus Features
Released August 10, 2011

“Change begins with a whisper.” But Kathryn Stockett, author of the runaway bestseller The Help, and screenplay writer and director Tate Taylor no longer whisper. Together with an ensemble cast members Emma Stone, Academy Award-nominated Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard, Stockett and Taylor tell a compassionate story of unlikely friends in complicated times.

Visit the official movie website
In 1963, the civil rights movement is well underway. The white folks of Jackson, Mississippi just don’t know it yet. When recent Ole Miss graduate Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Stone) returns home to Jackson, she feels lonely and out of synch with her married friends. Appalled by her friend Hilly’s (Howard) racial comments, she approaches a maid, Aibileen (Davis), about sharing what it’s like to work for a white family. Joined by spitfire Minny (Spencer), together they find the strength to shine by sharing their poignant stories through tears and triumph, laughter and love.

With the Blu-ray release of The Help, never-before-seen bonus features and additional deleted scenes are now available. “Making of The Help: From Friendship To Film” chronicles childhood best friends Stockett and Taylor, exposing their struggles, insecurities and southern stubbornness. Interviews with almost a dozen cast and crew members share a story of loyalty: loyalty to friends, to the maids and to Mississippi. At twenty-three minutes, the candid discussions and the personal inspirations behind the characters open up a greater appreciation and deepen our understanding of the beautiful love stories unfolding in The Help.

Also available only on Blu-ray, “In Their Own Words: A Tribute to the Maids of Mississippi” takes place in the church from the film. Tate Taylor and Octavia Spencer lead eight women, many joined by their daughters, in an open conversation about southern food, dreams and working as a maid in the 1960s. Both Taylor’s mother and maid join the sentimental, yet engaging twelve-minute feature.

Taylor introduces the five deleted scenes with commentary. The DVD release included two scenes: Charlotte’s reaction to Stuart’s heritage and an alternate end to Minny’s story. The Blu-ray release includes those and adds three additional scenes: Hilly confronting Skeeter about the “typo,” Johnny Foote coming home early, and fearful maids calling Aibileen at home. Deleted scenes add some value, but fall flat of adding dimension to the characters.

Both the Blue-ray and DVD release include the music video for Mary J. Blige’s emotional ballad “The Living Proof.” After watching a screening of the film, Blige wrote and performed the song especially for The Help soundtrack. Powerful lyrics like, “Nothing about my life has been easy/But nothing is gonna keep me down,” resonate with audiences. The video mixes an uplifting montage of short clips and Blige in a studio performance.

This award-winning film brings the beloved novel to life with compassion and honesty. The Help is not a statement about race; it is a novel and film dedicated to the truth and honoring their stories. The Blu-ray bonus features present a compelling backstory of loyalty that bring us all along for the ride on a Cinderella story set in Mississippi. Highly recommend the book, film and bonus materials.

Aibileen says, “God says to love your enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by tellin’ the truth. No one had ever ask’d me what it felt like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free.”

PG-13, Drama, 146 minutes 

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