Rated NR

There is much to admire in The Help, even though the message has been delivered repeatedly over the years. Movies about the Civil Rights Movement face the same hurdle that any other work of history or historical fiction does—namely, how to use what is well-known as a background for something else. In The Help, that something else is the evolution of a true friendship between a spirited young white reporter (Emma Stone) and the hired help of Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s. The key figure is Aibileen (Viola Davis), who begins to tell the reporter a story of race relations in the South from her point of view. It’s an exceedingly well-acted film, with Stone, Cicely Tyson, Bryce Dallas Howard and Octavia Spencer all capturing attention. But it’s Viola Davis’ moment, and she grabs it and does not let go.

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