I saw this a few weeks ago, actually, and just haven't gotten around to writing anything about it before now — maybe because I wasn't sure what to say. "The Help" is doing just fine with audiences, earning unexpectedly well for a serious film about a difficult, in some ways nearly unspeakable, period of American history. Set in the segregationist south of the early 1960s, it holds up to scrutiny the "polite" racism of privileged whites with their black maids, combning drama and humor to make points gently – and sometimes not so gently – about a group of maids who are led into revolt by the actions of an ambitious white woman who decides to make her reputation as a writer by penning an expose about the lives of the maids, published under the title of "The Help."
I found it engrossing and entertaining. The movie pushes right along with its story with little or no dawdling. Set in sumptuous houses, filmed in vivid colors, and providing excellent ensemble acting from a large, talented cast with many relatively unknown actors (there is little of the distraction one sometimes suffers from a cast full of overly identifiable actors), it has a feeling of realism about it, although at times there is some overly broad acting that detracts from that just a little.
Individual viewers will, of course, have individual reactions. To me, the most memorable performance comes from Viola Davis as the first of the maids to enlist, a bit hesitantly in the beginning, in the book project. But singling out individual performances is almost invidious, because they are all so good.
Finally, as a West Wing fan, I was absolutely delighted to see Allison Janney back in a big, juicy role.