Flick or Skip: The Help (Opens 10 August 2011)

On this edition of Flick or Skip, we're looking at a baity feel good dramedy about a young white reporter interviewing the black help in her suburban neighborhood for a tell all book. Is there more to the film than the premise? We'll try to figure that out only using the trailers.

The first thing I notice is that cast. You have Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard (one of my favorite underrated actresses), Cicely Tyson, Alison Janney, and Sissy Spacek, among others. That's a good cast. I feel like there's something more to this that goes beyond that schmaltzy mid-tempo pop song feel of the trailer.

There has to be, right? Look at the story this is telling. You have a privileged white woman deciding that she is going to go against her peers and write a tell-all about the maids they abuse on a daily basis. At the same time, you have a group of women who do thankless work every day putting themselves in the firing line just to tell their stories in the hope of helping someone else. That's pretty extraordinary for a film marketing itself as light and fluffy.

Surprisingly enough, the TV spot gives me more faith in the film. It still has that same style of music and seems to be playing up the humor. I accept that. There's room for some levity in this kind of material. It's the more sincere moments that get me here.

Why is that clip of Emma Stone and Viola Davis writing together at the table not in the full trailer? Is there going to be some kind of all is lost moment where Emma Stone gives up on writing the book so Viola Davis picks up the slack? Is Viola Davis editing the book before it goes to the publisher? Who knows? There's something to that brief little crosscut that intrigues me. Will that be played up more in the actual film or is it just a quick montage moment of working on the story?

To go into more superficial manners, I like the color palette of the film. The cut of the clothing is period appropriate even if the rich women's dresses are a bit brighter than the norm for that period. It serves nicely to contrast with the help in their dull blue uniforms. Even their church is cast in a duller tones, which is an interesting device to create the class distinctions. It's been done before and it will be done again; it's just rare that I notice that kind of detail from the trailers alone. That means it's either particularly heavy-handed in creating that distinction or is a rather stylish stab at it. I'm not sure which.

Here's where I'm at: why not see The Help? I doubt it's going to be bad. It could be just a little too clean and gooey for the subject matter, but that's par for the course in a certain style of filmmaking. There's obviously an audience for this. It doesn't appear to be a bad film for that particular audience.