Help Takes A Few

N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis has trashed The Help, calling it a “big ole slab of honey-glazed hokum.” And she’s pretty much dismissed every performance in the fiim except for Viola Davis‘s, which means, I suspect, that unless the entire world disagrees Davis has the heat and Octavia Spencer is out and that’s it.


(l. to r.) Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in The Help.

Same thing from New York‘s David Edelstein and Movieline’s Stephanie Zacharek: Davis is a solid standout in an overly gauzy, so-so film.

Which is too bad because I feel Spencer’s performance is also quite special. She’s broad at times but she touches bottom. If you ask me it’s her and Davis, her and Davis, her and Davis. Wait…Zacharek to the rescue. “The whole idea of The Help is that a maid isn’t just a maid, and Davis and her co-star, Octavia Spencer, breathe life into that idea,” she says. “As the quietly crusading Minny, Spencer has some of the movie’s best comic moments, though she never lets us lose sight of the justifiable anger and frustration that have come to rule her life.”

Davis “keeps her cool even as she warms your heart and does her job, often beautifully,” Dargis writes. “She doesn’t just turn Aibileen, something of a blur in the novel, into a fully dimensional character, she also helps lift up several weaker performances and invests this cautious, at times bizarrely buoyant, movie with the gravity it frequently seems to want to shrug off.”

Edelstein is saying that The Help “belongs to Viola Davis..it’s a tough, beautifully judged performance — it gives this too-soft movie a spine.”

For what it’s worth, The Help isn’t doing too badly — 74% — at Rotten Tomatoes so far.

27 thoughts on “Help Takes A Few

  1. This movie is very, very important and should be seen by everyone. It teaches us a valuable lesson….that racism is bad.

  2. Who cares what Dargis thinks? She is one of the most pretentous critics working today. I don’t know if I will like the film (I loved the book) but certainly my opnion will not be tainted by her rant.

  3. Uh-oh…I see this typical scenario starting to take shape….come Academy-time, best picture comes down to “The Help” and its hip-edgy-cutting-edge-state-of-our-life-today major competitor (fill in your own choice here..whatever becomes this year’s

    “Social Network”)…..y’all know who’s gonna win, doncha now?

  4. maniac, if Ides of March is the disillusioned deconstruction of Obamaism that is seems to be, then that will probably be the Social Network pick for the year. In which case your scenario seems all too likely.

    Thinking about this stuff, much less writing about it, makes me want to start cutting myself like Sonny Landham in Predator.

  5. Dargis is right about this movie. Martha Southgate’s take in this week’s Entertainment Weekly is correct too. The Help needs a lot of help.

  6. The fun will start when Armond White has to review it. Will he do his usual contrarian thing and give it a rave. Or will he do his stuck-in-the-60′s shtick and attack the white director? Too bad Noah Baumbach didn’t direct it…

  7. True or false: This book was a sensation with Boomer and Gen X women because they had issues about missing out on growing up with the sassy maids?

  8. I just saw it with a rather large and appreciative matinee crowd. It pushes all the right buttons and the audience responds accordingly. Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Sissy Spacek were the crowd favorites. Davis and Spencer deserve Oscar nominations.

  9. >Earth to Jeff- Critics have not mattered since 2002 at all, and Dargis never did.

    If you define “matter” as “affect box office,” you may be right. That doesn’t mean criticism remains a worthy — or even inevitable — exercise.

  10. Look at the shot above:

    - Emma Stone is in it

    - it’s brightly lit, with really saturated colors

    One thing’s for sure: Lex is going to LOOOOOVE this movie.

  11. The thing to remember here is that last year Dargis gave Tyler Perry’s heinous For Colored Girls an extremely positive review.She is often a very good writer, but is increasingly unreliable.

  12. Emma Stone, like Olivia Wilde, is overexposed and very overrated. Her Vanity Fair cover is pathetic in how much she obviously had to struggle to try and look sexy yet still failed. This movie looks like preachy crap. Love the comment about Ebert because it’s so true. His wife has him brainwashed.

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