'Humor and Heartbreak' Lift The Help

Film based on Kathryn Stockett novel stars Viola Davis, Emma Stone
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2011 1:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – Critics are impressed with certain aspects of The Help, Tate Taylor’s film about a young white woman interviewing black maids in 1960s Mississippi. But while some say the overall package is lacking, others are glowing.

  • Compared to Kathryn Stockett’s novel of the same name, the film is “impactful in parts, but noticeably lacking in Stockett's instinctive nuance,” writes Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News. “Taylor’s characters are familiar because we've seen them in movies so many times before: heroes and villains drawn in broad strokes, residents of a world regrettably lacking shades of gray.”

  • In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis offers a similarly mixed reaction to the “big, ole slab of honey-glazed hokum.” But “Viola Davis invests this cautious, at times bizarrely buoyant, movie with the gravity it frequently seems to want to shrug off.”
  • Buoyancy isn’t a problem for Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times: “Laughter, which is ladled on thick as gravy, proves to be the secret ingredient—turning what should be a feel-bad movie about those troubled times into a heart-warming surprise.”
  • And in Rolling Stone, Peter Travers notes that “a deeply touching human story filled with humor and heartbreak is rare in any movie season, especially summer.”
(Read more Kathryn Stockett stories.)

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