I couldn’t help but get THE KING’S SPEECH taste in my mouth when I was watching this film. Both movie’s rocked strong character work, but neither had the slighted whiff of taking a substantial artistic risk. It felt that Oscar nominations, not uncompromising art was the true goal of both movies.
You just can’t get away from the notion that THE HELP is a very safe film, not only in its artistic choices, but in its execution of the subject matter as well. Despite dealing with some very heavy stuff, Civil Rights in the Deep South in the 1960s, all the really scary material is kept offscreen. Instead the characters talk about some of the bad things that are happening and the news hints at some of that same stuff, but it’s all carefully neutered and hidden away.
It felt like the worst thing that could happen to these women for telling stories about their employers was that they could get fired. While in reality, they were doing was taking their lives in their own hands. The danger and risks inherent in their decisions were talked about, but never illustrated, giving the audience a false sense of what was really at stake in the film.
At times the stakes in THE HELP seem deliberately downplayed in order to broaden the film’s commercial appeal. It’s a shame, because I would have liked to have seen what this film could have been if the training wheels had been taken off.