Reel Critics: Maids with honor are focus in 'The Help'

Nearly 100 years after Lincoln freed the slaves, proper Southern ladies entrusted the raising of their children to women of color, but wouldn't let them use their toilets.

This is the story of "The Help," the highly watchable movie of the bestselling novel. It has humor and pathos without feeling condescending, and a mighty cast of females to be reckoned with.

Viola Davis gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Aibileen, the granddaughter of a Mississippi house slave who raised 17 white children, perhaps better than their natural mothers. Her good friend Minny (fabulous Octavia Spencer) is a true force of nature.

In the vicious, violent days of the early civil rights movement, Aibileen risks all to tell her stories to Skeeter (a very grownup Emma Stone), an aspiring journalist who wanted a record of Southern living from the maids' point of view. Cicely Tyson makes a small but wrenching appearance as the woman most responsible for Skeeter's independent spirit.

"The Help" is all about women — strong, weak, black and white. It's also a glimpse of a painful, not-so-distant chapter of American history. Even more shameful, it seems we have yet to fully grasp the concept of liberty and justice — and tolerance — for all.


Not filled with 'Glee' in teen angsty way

I have never seen an episode of the TV series "Glee." It's rumored to be about diverse teenagers with allegedly wholesome values. They all attend a high school where the performing arts are the focus of their lives. They dance and sing their way through the myriad complex problems of growing up.

I hear the show is loved by legions of followers who idolize their favorite cast members. I am personally a great fan of all kinds of music. So I thought I would get a feel for this pop culture phenomenon by seeing their premier concert movie.

The songs are well rehearsed and professionally choreographed. But they are focused on the vapid concerns of teenage angst and longing for love. There's little of substance to capture the attention of anyone older than the tween years. But hey, it's still fun to watch the kids strut their stuff.

There's no question that the average Gleek-O-Phile will love this movie. But uninitiated older viewers? Not so much.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

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