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Final Film Critique on the Move the Help

In: Film and Music

Submitted By lorialicehicks
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Final Film Critique– “The Help”

Contextual Information
Title: The Help
Writers: Tate Taylor (screenplay), Kathryn Stockett (novel)
Director: Tate Taylor
Cinematographer: Stephen Goldblatt, Director of photography
Major Actors: Emma Stone – Skeeter Phelan, Viola Davis – Abileen Clark,
Bryce Dallas Howard - Hilly Holbrook, Octavia Spencer – Minny Jackson
Release Date: August 10, 2011
Type of film: American Drama Based on a True Story
Genre: Drama Black women raising white children, and the children loved them, and they loved them back, but yet were not allowed to use the toilets in their employer’s house. These are the moments of the black maids in 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi.
Plot and Story The Help depicts the lives of black maids and their white employers exposing the racism that the black maids faced on a daily basis. The time is 1963 set in Jackson, Mississippi during the civil rights movement. The film that follows the lives of two black maids and a southern society girl, Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone), who returns home from college, eager to launch her dreams of being a writer. Skeeter wants to write a book to explain that racism doesn’t just mean withholding of education and voting rights. It is told from the perspective of the black maids so it is narrated through the movie as the voice of black maids that suffered the racism from their employers. The interviewing of the black maids, who spent their lives taking care of the prominent white families propels her small town into an uproar. In the beginning only Skeeter’s best friend’s maid, Abileen Clark (Viola Davis) would talk, much to the dismay of her friends in the close-knit black community. Before long, more women decide to come forward to tell their stories, and as it turns out, they have a lot to say about their treatment. By speaking with Aibileen, Skeeter becomes an object of contempt to the affluent locals, who believe her behavior as immediately challenging to their current social arrangement. Unlikely friendships begin and a new sisterhood materializes and Skeeter discovers that friendship can flourish under the most unlikely of conditions. But not everyone in town agrees with these new formed friendships and they have a few things to say about it, and Skeeter gets caught up in these changing times of desegregation. The Black Maids want to be treated better by their employers and respected for the people they are, instead of the color they are. The film focused on the everyday lives of the people that lived and worked in this town, history was not downgraded, but focused on the pressures that the black maids had to endure in such times of racial influence. “If they like a particular kind of story, chances are they will like this particular film, especially if the writer and director give the expectations a little twist” (Truby, 2010). The twist being the emotional turmoil that Skeeter goes through to open the eyes of the world to the horrible treatment of Black Maids in this small town.
The drama genre in a film that counts on the relational and emotional progress of genuine characters, often times with real intense conflict. Aibileen, a black maid who works for Hilly Holbrook, (Bryce Dallas Howard), she is always polite in her responses to her white employers, yet her eyes speak volumes of the pain and anger she suffers. However, resentment crawled into her soul with the death of her beloved son. She symbolizes the strange paradox by many a black maids who suffers abuse at the hands of white employers, yet has plentiful infinite love and devotion for the seventeen white children she raised. “Sometimes drama and comedy are mixed” (Goodyknootz & Jaccobs, 2011), as you can see throughout this film, although a dramatic film there are some comic scenes. Comedy genre gives the intention to use humor as a compelling influence, to get audiences to laugh through their entertaining characters and stories. The Comedy scene in this movie was when Aibileen’s best friend, Minny (Octavia Spencer) who claims of the best cook in the country, , but also a show of feistiness when she baked her former white employer, who fired her for using the house bathroom, a pie with her own feces’ in it and let her white employer eat it and told her when she was done eating. Her feistiness and righteous attitude make this film funny and provides comic relief for this dramatic film. Historical genre is a story about an event or real person. “Movies are something more than just an evening’s entertainment. They are also historical documents that help us see—and perhaps more fully understand—the world in which they were made" (Ross, 2002). The scene when they took the black maid was taken off the bus and they arrested her because she had talked to Skeeter, it shows you the abuse that the Black women suffered and had to endure to bring their story to light. The movie was at a time when civil rights were be challenged, many states had already passed laws making slavery illegal, but not in this small town of Jackson, Mississippi.
Aesthetic Choices
The lighting varies between high-key lighting designs to low key lighting when the dramatic scenes are played out. It is marked by extreme use of deep shadows, with very high contrast between the brightest parts of the scene and the darkest parts, which are obscured in shadows. “Often there may be only a single source of light, coming from the back or the side of the main characters” (Goodyknootz & Jacobs, 2011). Most of the outdoor scene are where natural light or high-key lighting is used for the more comic scenes, “A high–key lighting design has very bright light over everything, with few shadows and relatively low contrast between the lightest and darkest parts of the scene” (Goodyknootz & Jacobs, 2011). Lighting has come to be an important component of a film’s visual design. It is widely recognized that in film it can create a substantial emotional impact. “Light is obviously one of the most indispensable elements of the cinema. Indeed, films are light” (Deutsch, 2011). Light can make a scene look more realistic by creating shadows and highlights and evoke an intense atmosphere that makes you wonder what is going to happen next. The lighting effects our reaction to understanding certain characters by certain angles. The conversations between characters “pop” with the bright light from the background has the effect of almost blurring the objects in the background. One of the key roles in the visual storytelling process of a film is lighting. To produce dramatic effects Filmmakers use natural or artificial lights. Colorful and bright lighting often brings cheerfulness, Actors seem happier. Lighting gives directors the ability to focus their attention on characters. Film lighting has three main purposes, clarity of image, quest for greater realism and creation of atmosphere or emotional effect. If this scene had been done in the dark lighting it would not have had the same effect on the audience and even if the actor had acted exceptional to their characters part, it would not have come across with the same effect, the film was about real life situations with emotions, with some very dramatic scenes.
The dialogue between the individuals in a home while a storm is going on outside, shows the dramatic scene with the thunder and lightning, causing the scene to be dark and dimly lit. “Dialogue and the visual action work together to create the entire film experience” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). There are three basic reasons to use dialogue; to develop the plot, to enhance the characters and to establish information to understand the story. The sound effects used with the storm and thunder outside the home were dramatic and very realistic. Most of the time sound effects like this are done outside the studio “sound effects typically have to be recorded separately and added into the final film in post–production “ (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). The expected sound effects, mainly with the rain, were realistic and dramatic, with the lightning and thunder from the sound effects. “Dramatic films were noteworthy because of their low levels of nonlinear sound effects (e.g., crying moans from a violin)” (Primal sound effects, 2011).
The music is dramatic to match the scene of the events happening at the moment “Music on the screen can seek out and intensify the inner thoughts of the characters. It can invest a scene with terror, grandeur, gaiety, or misery . . . it is the communicating link between the screen and the audience, reaching out and enveloping all into one single experience” (Hoeckner, et al. 2011). The specific sounds in the movie were dramatic sounds making you know that this is a drama or thriller movie. “Music became a basic element of constructing a movie, as essential an element as lights and cameras” (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). The sound effects were realistic, they were scenes of people communicating and expressing their feelings, the music was conducive to the drama felt in this scene.
Social/Personal Impact It is clear that Mississippi was reeling from the release of the movie in their town“The Help”. The directors and writers felt that it was important to film the movie in Mississippi where the movie was depicted in the book, Filmmakers spent weeks in Greenwood, Mississippi filming the movie which gave the actors the ability to soak in the culture which was the backdrop of the movie. Some local talent is hoping that this movie will be a mark on Mississippi that can draw in more films in the future. Movies have tremendous power to entertain and to teach. They can be a powerful element to bring about effective social change, as this movie did.
“Structural and textual analysis of film genres tends towards the formalist understanding of genre tropes; functional analysis tends to understand genres in terms of their interaction with viewers” (Smith, 2014). The black characters in this movie show the pain they suffered at the hands of the White people, cleaning white houses and polishing the silver, cooking meals and tending children and smiling, always smiling, even as they pretend not to hear the insults, to remind you that this is at least partly about backbreaking, soul-killing black labor. What does remain, though, is the movie’s conceit of their white characters, with their problematic relationships and neglected children, carry burdens equal to those of the black characters. The movie brings forth the ironing out differences and letting go of the past and anger. People should be treated with respect, regardless of their race. These moments come when you see a black maid absurdly vacuuming a large stuffed bear or when one states: “Love and hate are two horns on the same goat.” Now that’s the spirit!” (The Help, 2011).

Deutsch, J. I. (2011). Hollywood Lighting from the Silent Era to Film Noir. Historical Journal Of Film, Radio And Television, (2), 317.
Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2011). Film: From Watching to Seeing. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Hoeckner, B., Wyatt, E. W., Decety, J., & Nusbaum, H. (2011). Film music influences how viewers relate to movie characters. Psychology Of Aesthetics, Creativity, And The Arts, 5(2), 146-153. doi:10.1037/a0021544
Primal sound effects. (2011). Marketing Research, 23(1), 3.
Ross, S. J. (2002). Movies and American society. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Smith, E. "Genres: Cinematic and Early Modern." Shakespeare Bulletin 32.1 (2014): 27-43. Project MUSE. Web. 21 Jul. 2014. <>.
Truby, J. (2010, December 1). What’s my genre? Retrieved from
The Help Movie Trailer Official (2011) The Help, retrieved from Clevver Movies at

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