The Dreamworks-produced, Disney-distributed “The Help” made good use of its mid-week opening to help, pun intended, generate word-of-mouth about the big screen adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling book of the same name. The movie launched past industry expectations into a second place finish for the weekend with an estimated $26 million ($35.9m total since its Wednesday release).
“The Help”‘s 3-day numbers place is oh-so-close to the box office repeat champ, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which took in another $27.8m, pushing it over the $100 million mark domestically, nearly $180m worldwide.
Brought to the screen by actor-turned-director Tate Taylor (pictured right) – a childhood friend of the author who exquisitely handled the adaptation – and starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain, “The Help” is earning some of the best reviews of the year and may very well find those much desired “legs” that keep a movie in the Top 10 for weeks to come. Despite its 73% approval from critics, audiences are responding with overwhelming positive feedback, boosting it to a 93% approval rating.
If you haven’t yet seen the movie – or have and want to hear the actress’ take on their characters – be sure to watch the four featurettes and scene starring Chastain below.
Emma Stone delivers a career-making role for the starlet whose credits until now have showcased her comedic abilities. She’s able to put those to occasional use here, but her role as Skeeter requires much more. As a recent graduate of Ol’ Miss, Skeeter returns home to Jackson, Mississippi ready to take on the world as a journalist rather than becoming Suzie Homemaker as is expected of women at the time. With dreams of working in New York City, Skeeter sees an opporunity to make big waves with a book that could rattle Jackson to its core.
Aibileen is portrayed with incredible grace, subtlety and brilliance by two-time Tony Award® winner and Oscar® nominee (“Doubt”) Voila Davis, one who many consider to be a lock for another Oscar nomination come January 2012. She is the first maid to agree to participate anonymously in Skeeter’s book, a maid who, at the time of the book/movie, has now helped raise 17 children. Aibileen is beloved by those who know her, a positive light in an otherwise desperate time.
Minnie is played by the little-known Octavia Spencer. But little-known, no more. Spencer is without a doubt the break-out star of “The Help” with her sassy, Mammy-esque attitude. Minnie is the maid for Bryce Dallas Howard’s Hilly, until Minnie defies Hilly’s rule that the help use separate bathrooms located outside of the house. A woman of great integrity and fearlessness, Minnie takes a stand against the injustices in the workplace and in her own home.
And then there’s the “villain” of this movie, a woman who’s racist and doesn’t even realize it. Arguably Howard’s best performance to date, it’s also her meatiest. Hilly is a manipulative and overwhelming woman, everything she says and does done in the name of the safety and protection of whites. She is a woman raised with a high society approach to life, and she is determined to maintain that lifestyle. She’s the character you hate to love, and a definig moment of the story focused on Hilly and Minnie, their feud eventually the scandal of Skeeter’s book.
Jessica Chastain has an undeniable presence, the camera loves her, easily pulling the audience into her every nuanced action. Starring in a number of movies this year, first as Brad Pitt’s wife in “The Tree of Life,” here Chastain plays Celia Foote, another character with an intriguing story arc. A woman shunned by the other women of Jackson who just wants to keep a nice home and learn to cook for her husband, Celia has tried several times to hire a maid. But it’s Minnie who finds herself presented an offer she can’t refuse.
“The Help” also stars Sissy Spacek, Allison Janney and Cicely Tyson.