The Help (2011)

Starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Ahna O’Reilly, Allison Janney, Anna Camp, Chris Lowell, Cicely Tyson, Sissy Spacek, Aunjanue Ellis, Mary Steenburgen

Directed by Tate Taylor

Expectations: Low. I’m watching this only because I loved Jessica Chastain’s work in Take Shelter.


The Help is a film I had no interest in seeing upon release. As soon as I heard it was set in the 1960s South and revolved around “the colored help” I went into a tirade about how Hollywood loves to make movies about the serving black person. This one’s supposed to be OK because it’s against the backdrop of civil rights and we’re supposed to get uplifted by the end, as things have gotten so much better for our characters. Pah-leese. But then I saw Take Shelter and immediately became intrigued to see Jessica Chastain work her acting magic in whatever she was in. My significant other was going to watch this one anyway, so I decided to stick around and see what all the fuss was about.

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Mini-Review: Winter’s Bone (2010)

Winter’s Bone (2010)

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Garret Dillahunt, Dale Dickey, Shelley Waggener, Kevin Breznahan, Ashlee Thompson, Tate Taylor, Sheryl Lee, Cody Shiloh Brown, Isaiah Stone, Ronnie Hall

Directed by Debra Granik

Expectations: High. I’ve heard nothing but good things.


It has been a long time since I’ve felt this conflicted about my feelings for a movie. The film ended and I was at a loss for words. I had to recount the entire narrative in my head to see if I had missed anything, if there was some missing link hidden in the frost for me to uncover. I pondered the film for a while after viewing, trying to wrap my head around why things were the way they were. Once I came to terms with these facts, I respected the film more for what it was, but I can’t say that watching Winter’s Bone was a pleasant experience.

Plainly put, it’s boring. The pace is very slow, which fits the location and the characters perfectly, but everything is so muted and calm that it becomes easy to miss key information and lose track of the plot line. This is definitely a movie in the camp of films that expect the viewer to meet it halfway. That all being said, Winter’s Bone is a very well-made film technically. The color scheme never strays too far from the cold gray and blue world of a snowy winter, but somehow director Debra Granik is able to make every shot interesting and emotive of the situation. The acting from the entire cast is excellent as well, with John Hawkes standing out as the best of the bunch. The characters are an interesting bunch for sure, skillfully blending intelligence with a backwoods mafia vibe. They never seem like the stupid hillbillies that usually inhabit these types of movies, instead echoing real people with real lives. While I think the script has a few logic jumps that don’t make sense (could just be my boredom), overall it must be commended for its realistic characters. I do wonder how much of this comes from the novel it is based on.

At the end of the day though, Winter’s Bone remains a boring movie that I can’t really recommend, but it’s not a bad movie either.

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