The Help [2011]

The big reason The Help isn’t already sweeping up awards and probably won’t make much of a dent at February’s Oscars is that it’s not poignant enough. The subject matter is a sensitive one (racism and segregation), and it’s been covered countless times on the big screen, but this film’s treatment of it remains a little superficial and lightweight. It’s a testament, then, to the strength of Kathryn Stockett’s characters (she wrote the novel on which this movie is based) that despite these issues, The Help is still very touching (and funny). Visually, it’s much more appealing. The bright pastel colors captured by cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt pop beautifully. But mainly, The Help is a master class in acting, a plethora of incredible performances, three of them worthy of Oscar recognition: Viola Davis in her first starring role since her show-stopping breakthrough in 2008’s Doubt, Octavia Spencer’s hilarious and heartbreaking Minny and a delicious Jessica Chastain in full Amy-Adams mode. Bryce Dallas Howard, clearly enjoying her time as the ultimate stuck-up bitch, Emma Stone and Cicely Tyson round out the finest ensemble of 2011.