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The Help / Rated PG-13 for smoking, language, adult themes, more smoking, then some more smoking.

The title refers to black maids in Mississippi in the late 50s and early 60s. The subject matter is prejudice. The casting is excellent as are all the performances. Wait and see how good they are during the 2012 Oscar presentation show. The prejudice of the South went on way too long. So does this movie.

Often uncomfortable to watch, this film is a realistic portrayal of life in Mississippi during the pre Civil Rights era. Many real life events of that period form a backdrop for the fictional portrayals in the movie. It is based on a novel.

Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain are the younger ladies in their 20’s coping with Bridge Club meetings while spending inherited money and firing the uppity black maids. The maids are represented by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Older ladies representing the moms of the younger ladies are done on screen by Allison Janney and Sissy Spacek. In an early scene old mama Sissy attends the local Bridge get together with her daughter Bryce and is planted in front of a small TV set to have a snack, watch her soap and take a nap. In what appears to be an inside joke she is seen viewing the long running TV soap Guiding Light. The other important older mom actress, Allison Janney, was in this series in 1993-1995. In a smaller role Cicely Tyson (79 this December) appears as the oldest maid in the story. CT has another movie due out later this year.

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As the story proceeds, outrage after outrage are carried out by the white elite on the black workers. Emma Stone (AJ’s daughter) gets a job writing a house cleaning advice column for the local newspaper. She aspires to higher goals. She has to solicit help from one of the maids on the answers and conceives the idea of doing an anonymous book on the stories of life based on the experience of the long suffering maids.

A finely made film with Oscar caliber performances and a brilliant score by Thomas Newman (refer to my review of Leatherheads (2008) for more info on the Newman Family Film Scoring Machine). TH suffers by being a bit too long at the 2 hour 20 minute mark. They get the prejudice point across then continue to pound us with it to its exhaustion point. While the film’s payoff of comeuppance and resolution turns out in a satisfactory way, it probably could have done so with equal impact in shorter time.

While easily in the “chick flick” genre, TH has enough good points, especially all the fine performances, to be recommended to non-chicks.

Rated 3.0 out of 4.0 Colors similar to Purple

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