This joyous, delightful, hummingly- satisfying film based on the 2009 best selling book by Kathryn Stockett is summer fare at its grandest. If you read the book you will recognize compelling, incredible casting; each actor perfectly captures their literary doppelganger.
Not having a Southern background or heritage, I found the book problematic in the commencing chapters but due to Stockett’s skill grew to understand the subtleties of the relationships between the white “mistresses” and their black “servants”, enmeshed in the heated racial milieu thriving in Mississippi in the early sixties.
Emma Stone as “Skeeter” is pungently sensational as the too- intelligent, budding journalist who takes up the plight or stories of the “help”; she is a product of southern culture and the haze of her indolent upbringing evaporates as she listens, records, empathizes with the women of color, their invisibleness dissipates as the vividness of their personalities blossom under her perspicacious probing.
Viola Davis (Academy Award nominee for “Doubt”) is redolent as “Aibileen”. She has raised 17 white children and lost her only son; she portrays her bleeding soul with insurmountable dignity; her pain palpable, majestic in accepting the stringent rules that have chiseled her fate. This performance is a huge leap toward an Academy Award acceptance speech.
Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron’s daughter. “The Loss of the Teardrop Earring”) is stunningly strident as “Hilly” the metaphor for the vapid, supercilious, self-righteous, effete southern debutante (my apologies to all the “debs” who have lived their lives, making a difference); whose ultimate mantra is “no matter the means” it lends credence to the “end”. You detest her passionately, testimony to her devastating realistic portrayal.
Octavia Spencer is “Minny” the Shakespearean “comic relief” and at the risk of being pejorative my favorite of all the characters. Her pride and feistiness belie an abusive home life; she radiates confidence, power and an explosiveness that dominates her decisions. This is a woman you want as a friend and shun as an enemy; she will fight and die for her values, and her fried chicken!
Jessica Chastain (“A Tree of Life”) is “Celia” with a body that does not stop and a brain in need of a jump start. She is pathetic as the misfit, the outcast, the foil of ridicule but triumphs because she treats “Minny” as an equal, a woman of substance, a woman she admires for her culinary skills, common sense, kindness, and her shrewd and truthful wisdom.
Minor roles, wrapped in gifted wonderment: Allison Janney (Skeeter’s mother); Sissy Spacey (Hilly’s mother); Chris Lowell (Skeeter’s boyfriend); pungently powerful, adding depth and galvanizing insight into past, and early 1960’s of Jackson, Mississippi.
A masterful, marvelous, memorable movie!
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!