The writer and filmmakers have done their research. Details are accurate. The company names on each floor are right: like Cantor Fitzgerald, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The timing of everything. Sometimes we cut from the people in the the building to their family members. Wives and husbands and parents and children. We see snippets of Bush’s address. 17 minutes after the initial impact there’s a second concussion: the South Tower collision.
There’s emotional highs and lows. Panic. Drama. The movie is capturing the horror of that day. But the characters, despite the situation, are heroic. They help one another, motivate each other, are open about their pain and how shaken they are. And they’re funny; they manage, somehow, beyond all possibilities, to laugh, to make the audience laugh.
One of the subplots is that the two "leader" characters argued about whether or not to check the top floors. The one was very vocal: “even if one person is up there, we need to try and help them!!!” And the other said: “It’s too dangerous, the building can fall at any minute, people are scared enough going down. If we went up, there’s no telling what we’d find. And we’re not just trying to escape, Max. We’re running, because if we stop, even for a second, fear will over take us. Grief will eat our legs. We have to keep moving.” So the climax of the movie is that the 80th floor makes it out of the building just in time to hear the shrieks and yells "Someone is falling!". The Other Leader that had advocated continuing downward is horrified (was he wrong not to go up and search?), and RUNS and grabs 6 fire fighters and together they stretch out a blanket and THEY CATCH THE FALLING MAN. Also, the fifty people from the 80th floor ended up rescuing, during the descent, a bunch of other people too. An NYPD officer comes running out of the building and says to the chief, who is right next to Max, “It’s all clear sir, it looks like these guys found everyone. They saved everyone.” The officer then turns to Max and, saluting, says “Thank you.” The characters are reunited with their families and it’s this happy slow-motion scene. The North Tower topples. Mellow, yet triumphant music kicks in as the crowd cheers the people from the 80th floor... .
What a great story!
Except it’s bullshit. 2,753 people died in NYC that day. There were firefighters in the North Tower when it collapsed. This is a debasement of reality. An affront to the victims and those they left behind, to our country. A false note. Thank Mother Theresa no one has made such a movie.
...but someone did make The Help
The Help is an appalling story because while it attempts to provide an honest insight into the cruel reatment of Jackson, Mississippi maids during the 1960’s, it goes a step too far and gives these maids a catharsis they never had.
No woman collected the anonymous accounts of black, Jackson, Mississippi maids into one novel, no New York City publisher published it, and the maids of Jackson did not have an emotional victory over the people who had done them so wrong.
I repeat: the maids of Jackson, Mississippi did not have a NYC publisher release a best-selling collection of their stories, thus allowing them a voice they never had.
I repeat: The Help is not a true story. The emotional feel-good you get from these women one-upping their tormentors is fallacious, fraudulent, and disrespectful to the truth.
I repeat: the maids never had a voice. They had Medgar Evans and he was killed. They had John F. Kennedy and he was killed. They had Malcolm X and he was killed. They had Martin Luther King Jr. and he was killed.
Director: Tate Taylor
Skeeter: Emma Stone
Hilly (meanie): Bryce Dallas Howard
Aibileen: Viola Davis
Minny: Octavia Spencer
Celia: Jessica Chastain
Skeeter's mom: Allison Janney
Skeeter's dude: Chris Lowell
Sissy Spacek: Mrs. Walters
Wonderfully adorable as Constantine: Cicely Tyson
In the Titanic, Jack does not stop the ship from striking the iceberg. From sinking.
In Schindler's List, Schindler does not lead a rebellion and shut down Auschwitz.
In United 93, the passengers do not land the plane.
Why? Because the Titanic sunk, the Soviet liberated Auschwitz on January 27th, 1945, and United 93 crashed.
Why? Because these films are working with history, not spitting in its face.
Don't get me wrong, I thought The Help was great. I laughed, I cried. I loved the characters. In terms of "story telling": The Help did everything right.
But I can't get over how indignant it is to deviate from the true story. The Help spends all this time SHOWING US WHAT IT WAS LIKE. Only to give us a FAKE happy ending.
Here's a rule: either you're historically accurate, or you're not. You can't be both. Inglorious Basterds is inaccurate from the get-go. When Tarantino has U.S. soldiers mow down Hitler and a theater full of Nazis, it's another part of the false-reality we've been enjoying.
The Help could have done several things differently and not been so insulting:
1. The maid's stories could have not been published. The publisher declines, citing it as too dangerous. The maids are upset and we get the cheesy "one day, people will know what it was like for us." And then the movie shows us Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and tells us about the fall of segregation, and explains the evolution of the "maid" in Jackson as segregation disappeared (they became housekeepers, received benefits, and retirement, were finally able to take different jobs, etc).
2. Set the story in a fictional town, have the book published only in this town. We get the same "triumph" but it does not insult reality (since the town is fictional and the events are confined to this fiction). The story then serves to remind us that IN REALITY THE MAIDS DIDN'T GET TO VOICE THEIR STORIES.
3. After the collection is published and we get the "happy ending" the narrator tells us that this didn't happen, that THE MAIDS NEVER HAD A VOICE, and even today we don't know the truth of their emotions. The story is then like Atonement and is acting on the behalf of the maids to provide them with what they never actually had.
The worst thing the filmmakers and author could have done was, after documenting the reality of the situation, not conclude with the reality of the situation. Instead, The Help, in a search to provide the reader/viewer with a happy ending, gives history (and all the maids of Jackson, Mississippi) the middle finger by creating a ripple that never was and snubbing the truth.
Though I strongly feel The Help trespasses, it does bring the topic of the maids into the mainstream. What is their story? What did happen? How did they feel? Who can speak for them? Who will?
Did I like it:
The morality of the storytelling aside, yes, it was really well plotted and well done. I hated the people I was supposed to hate and liked who I was supposed to like. And fluctuated appropriately in regard to Allison Janney and Chris Lowell.
I thought Emma Stone was okay, but had a lot of Emma Stone mannerisms (not a bad thing since I like Emma Stone, but it means I didn't fully buy her as a character). Jessica Chastain I found heart-warming and loveable and fantastic and brought the most energy to the screen.
Mainstream but okay directing. Solid acting.
I recommend seeing it. But keep in mind that the ending is fake, insulting, and could beget a trend where novelists and filmmakers cease to respect the shadow of history and dance upon its grave instead, because, tell me, who prefers pain when you can dance? ("A masochist." Okay.)
"Okay, so did you like Gladiator." Yeah. "Well, that's 'messing' with history. A gladiator didn't kill the Emperor in combat." No, but a Roman athlete did strangle Commodus to death. And Maximus, while fictional, is an amalgamation of three real people. And the events happened before the year 200AD. That''s nearly 2,000 years ago. If more than 1,000 years has passed between the subject matter and the present, you have my permission, take some liberties. But, notice, Ridley Scott did not bitch slap fact. He worked with it.
What It's Good For:
-opening you up to a world you probably have never thought about
-runs the emotional gamut
-period piece lovers
-could have been an important film, but opts to become a cliche Feel Good Movie
-could be insulting to the very people it wants to champion
-people have taken issue with a white girl saving the black women
%Character / %Actor's perosnality
Emma Stone: 60/40
Bryce Dallas Howard: 85/15
Viola Davis: 90/10
Octavia Spencer: 80/20
Jessica Chastain: 100/0
Allison Janney: 60/40
Chris Lowell: 70/30
Sissy Spacek: 65/35
Cicely Tyson: 85/15
Emma Stone: Superbad; Crazy, Stupid, Love; Zombieland; Easy A
Bryce Dallas Howard: The Village; Lady in the Water
Viola Davis: Doubt, Solaris
Chastain: Tree of Life
Janney: American Beauty, Juno, The West Wing
Spacek: Badlands, Carrie, Hot Rod
Racism movies: To Kill a Mockingbird; School Ties; A Raisin in the Sun; Gran Torino;
Titanic: James Cameron, Leonardo Di Caprio, Kate Winslet
Schindler's List: Steven Spielberg, Liam Nesson, Ben Kinglsey, Ralph Fiennes
United 93: Paul Greengrass
Gladiator: Ridley Scott, Russell Crow, Joaquain Phoenix, Djimon Hounsou