Yap vs. Yap: The Help
At the end of “The Help,” Yappers Joe Shearer and Austin Lugar had decidedly differing opinions on the film: Joe thought it was one of the best movies of the year, if not the best, to date, and Austin regarded it along the same lines as a particularly nasty hangnail or perhaps a particularly problematic paper cut.
So Joe and Austin agreed to settle their differences in the ring — more accurately, the Film Yap’s version of the squared circle: Yap vs. Yap.
Here they debate the merits of the film, the characters, the acting and whether, y’know, it sucks or doesn’t.
Even Bryce Dallas Howard, whose character is a wicked, terrible person, is afforded a few moments of real loyalty to her friends, and Emma Stone, who is the purehearted hero of the piece, is portrayed at times as more idealistic and caught up in fame more than simply wanting to help. (There is a wonderful moment where she realizes the gravity of what she’s doing and how it really affects the people with whom she’s involved.)
It is a female-centric film, “Steel Magnolias” meets “Driving Miss Daisy,” and it takes the best parts of those films and removes the more maudlin moments, leaving a fantastic film. I’d go so far as to call this the best film of the year to date.
I’m curious, Austin: What do you feel this film needs to really improve?
I’ll won’t begrudge you your hatred of the cutesy jokes, but they leaned more toward endearing to me, and there were only a couple early on.
I do agree with you 100% about Allison Janney. She is terrific at times, and I saw her line coming a mile away, but that’s her persona and she’s played that role several times over.
Emma Stone’s arc had nothing to do with racism or the maids: It was about finding her place in the world and was a secondary consideration in the film. She was more the mirror of the modern day being held up to this time.
This film belonged to two people specifically, whom we haven’t even mentioned yet: Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Yes, the things they faced were well-worn, but somehow they brought a freshness to the whole thing. They openly talked about their bosses behind their backs, and Davis’ role as the surrogate mother to her boss’s daughter was especially touching and brought a new element to the subject. The film didn’t fully victimize black people; it stressed that they had to take the steps to break the chains, so to speak, and called them out for displaying verbal brazenness but not taking actual action. And dammit, they were so sassy!
As for your technical concerns, I’ll just say you’re much more a stickler to the technical than I am. (Dare I use the word “snob”?) There was a certain technical roughness to this film, but it took nothing away from the experience for me. Tate Taylor (isn’t he the Office Linebacker, by the way?) isn’t an auteur, but he told the story well. Kind of like a guy who made a certain racism film a couple of decades ago. Of course, “Boyz n the Hood” is a far superior and more important film than “The Help,” but my point is that John Singleton had some rough edges in that film as well, but it took nothing away from its overall effect.
I’ll agree also with your assessment that the acting improved the film quite a bit, though I wouldn’t call Aibilene poorly written. The acting overall was really strong, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few nominations come out of this, though the line between award-worthy acting and cliche is very fine indeed (and sometimes nonexistent, as in the case of those two movies you just mentioned).
But indeed, it was that acting, and the respective personalities of those actresses that lifted “The Help.” Look at that cast: Davis, Stone, Howard, Sissy Spacek, Janney and finds like Spencer and Chastain. (I’ll admit I only remember Spencer as being the woman who signed up Peter Parker to wrestle Randy Savage … er, Bonesaw McGraw in the first “Spider-Man” movie, and I hadn’t seen Chastain in anything.) “The Help” is definitely a chick flick, but is one of the really good ones, perhaps one of the best.