Typically, I like to keep Theater Hopper as relevant as possible by tackling what's current on the movie landscape. So it feels a little bit like I'm putting on loose pants by doing a comic about The Help - a movie that came out over a month ago.
The relevance of The Help has been maintained largely by it's strong box office. It's fended off contenders for the top spot for 25 days in a row - the longest streak a movie has stayed at number one since The Sixth Sense held on for 35 days over a decade ago. So, in case you were wondering... yeah, Emma Stone is a for-real movie star now.
"By why now, Tom? Why do a comic about The Help?"
Thanks for asking, imaginary person. The reason is simple. It's because I went to see The Help this weekend!
The Help is a movie that Cami has wanted to see since before it came out. But, having two kids, we couldn't find the time to go see it. At one point, Cami exclaimed that she would see it by herself if she had to! Even though I was willing to see The Help with Cami, I encouraged her to see it by herself if she had to because I wasn't entirely revved up to see it.
Here's was my opinion about The Help before I saw it - and I have to tread lightly here, because any time I try to make a comment about anything racial, it always seems to get misinterpreted as racist - and that is never my intent.
To me, The Help looked like one of those movies specifically designed to make white people feel good - Emma Stone in the role of a "white savior" helping to liberate black women serving as maids to white families in early 60s Jackson, Mississippi.
It's basically the flip side of the "magical black man" that Hollywood likes to use from time to time. The black supporting character with particular wisdom or insight that helps the white protagonist. Think about Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile. Or Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance.
I'll stop there because I don't want to dig a hole I can't get out of. But basically what I'm saying is that when I watched the trailers for The Help, I immediately recognized a racially-tinged trope that I wasn't sure I wanted to support with box office dollars.
Having seen the movie, I can say that I found it to be perfectly acceptable entertainment. I can't speak to the authenticity of the film or the Civil Rights climate it reflects. I assume some liberties were taken., but nothing stuck out to me.
The film is a little long with side stories about some of the white housewives that I felt distracted from what should have been the main focus of the movie, racial segregation. Jessica Chastain portraying a bubbly blonde none of the other well-to-do housewives want to associate with seemed particularly out of place. Her story line played more like an episode of The Real Housewives of Jackson portraying women with money and their catty backbiting. I'm not sure it did much other than extend the running time of the movie quite needlessly.
That's not to say Chastain's performance in the film was bad. She was actually quite good. In fact, I was impressed by the entire cast - and I think that's where The Help truly shines.
The subject matter may have been glossed over from a historical standpoint, but each of the actors in the film communicate the weight and severity of their reality.
Watching the film, I kept reminding myself that the era this film portrays really wasn't that long ago - barely 50 years. That's not very long in terms of undoing the culture of ignorance and the damage it inflicted upon these black women.
In the end, I'm not sure that a movie like The Help was ever intended for someone like me. But I felt like what it may have lacked in substance, it made up for with sincerity. If it gets people talking about race, maybe that's a good thing.
Have you seen The Help? If so, what was your take? Leave your comments below!
How'd that go?
I'm being forced to see The Help!