In the meteoric rise of Emma Stone's star, it is a testament to the sort of versatile person she is in choosing the role of Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan in Tate Taylor's The Help (based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett). A far cry from Stone's proneness for lighter fare, like Superbad, Easy A, and Zombieland, The Help is a veritable roller coaster of emotions. Within the span of five minutes, you'll find yourself laughing and crying--a carefully formulated balance of the sweet with the bitter.
From the outset of the film, it is apparent that Skeeter is not like the rest of the women in Jackson. Her concerns are focused on a career in writing rather than a career in marriage. She also stands apart from the others in her treatment of her friends' maids, striking an affinity with Aibileen Clark (Davis) after asking if she can get her advice on cleaning for the Miss Myrna column in the Jackson Journal. Seeking an opportunity to get her foot in the door of a publishing company in New York, Skeeter sees the potential in telling the truth about what it is like to be a maid in Jackson from the perspective of the maids themselves.
At first reluctant to assist Skeeter in her quest, Aibileen's mind is changed when faced with the horrible manner in which her friends and fellow maids are treated, especially Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer), who is fired by the cruelest woman in town, Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), simply for using the bathroom in the main house. Unable to remain silent any longer, she agrees to tell her unbridled truth to Skeeter. It is only a matter of time before others join Aibileen in rehashing the gory details of being a member of the hired help sect in Jackson.
Minny's candid stories about working for Hilly and her mother, Mrs. Walters (Sissy Spacek), include retaliating at Hilly for firing her by making her a chocolate pie filled with a special ingredient straight from Minny's ass. With Hilly having blacklisted Minny from working anywhere else in town, Minny goes to the one person she knows Hilly would not have contacted: Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), a woman that Hilly views as too tacky to associate with.
With the cooperation of most of the maids in Jackson, as well as the newly forged alliance between Minny and Celia, the possibility for the underdog to triumph finally seems possible. And even though Skeeter's boyfriend Stuart (Chris Lowell) turns out to be a huge racist asshole, she at least gets her job offer from Elain Stein (Mary Steenburgen) in New York. And yeah, Skeeter's mom (the always incomparable Allison Janney) has cancer, but she promises Skeeter that she isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Oh and then there's the whole incredibly heart-wrenching scene where Aibileen is fired by her boss, Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O'Reilly), and her daughter, who she barely pays attention to, runs to the window to watch Aibileen leave.
But I swear that in spite of all the harsh and mournful incidents that take place in The Help, it is a film that will uplift you and make you realize that there are causes in this world worth fighting for.