Sunday, 8 July 2012

War through words.

The Help
August 10, 2011 
Directed by: 
Tate Taylor
Produced by:
Chris Columbus
Michael Barnathan
Brunson Green
Written by: 
Tate Taylor
(Based on the book ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett)
Emma Stone
Viola Davis
Octavia Spencer
Bryce Dallas Howard
Allison Janney
Jessica Chastain

Summary: Set during the time of the African-American Civil Rights movement in the deep South, ‘The Help’ tells the story of an aspiring journalist (Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan’) who becomes isolated from the group of superficial women in her community. Skeeter is affected by the injustices she sees within lives of black people, especially in terms of maids raising white children. With the help of two maids, she starts to compile stories of their experiences in a hope to expose the racism in society. 
My Favourite Scene: I really liked the scene in which Minny visits Celia Foot regarding a position as a maid. Celia is clearly out of her depth in the kitchen, saying ‘I guess I got some learning to do’, to which Minny replies ‘you sure do’.   Their introduction shows the beginning of a friendship between the fiery Minny and ditzy Celia. 
Although I’m not sure Minny would have been quite so forward and impolite to her future employer... I still think this scene is very good. The character of Celia is an isolated and fragile one. We already know that the white, female community do not accept her and she is hiring a maid without her husband’s knowing, to make him think she can ‘do it on [her] own’. Celia is excluded from her community, in the same way that black people were excluded from white society. Their friendship conveys that even with society’s boundaries, unions can form and people rely on each other regardless of race. 
My Favourite Quotes: 
Aibileen Clark: 18 people were killed in Jackson that night. 10 white and 8 black. I don’t think God has colour in mind when he sets a tornado loose.
Aibileen Clark: (to Elizabeth’s daughter Mae Mobley Leefolt) You is kind. You is smart. You is important. 
Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan: (referring to her mother’s earlier comments) You know, last time I had an almond, I stopped likin' men.
Rebecca: Oh, my lord!
Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan: Oh no! Rebecca, it's fine. There's a special root tea for that now.

My Thoughts: A theme which I found particularly powerful in ‘The Help’, was the meaning of family. The film illustrates that family, rather than being connected to blood ties, is whoever loves, understands and raises you. The white children see their maids as their true mothers, rather than their mothers by blood. Mae Mobley Leefolt tells Aibileen Clark ‘you my real mama, Aibi’. Although I do not think such a young child would be able to understand what a ‘real mama’ means, this shows that children recognise who truly care for them.
I also felt that ‘The Help’ was a good film because it used comedy in a clever way. Considering the subject matter, comedy was avoided when it would have been inappropriate. However there were some serious moments which used comedy, and still managed to be hard-hitting. Such as when Minny Jackson (believing Celia’s Foot’s husband was going to attack her) threw her shopping everywhere and grabbed a long branch to defend herself.
The only criticism I would have of this film is that it all seemed a little polished and unrealistic. It would probably have been more of a struggle and with perhaps more violent consequences for some. ‘The Help’ is a feel-good film, which slightly undermined the profundity. However it is still a very entertaining and thought-provoking film.
I really enjoyed ‘The Help’ because it intertwined so many important issues. Of course there is the theme of race, but also friendship, loyalty and courage in the face of opposition. It proves that the smallest idea can form something extremely important, and that the power of words should never be underestimated. The maids in this film could not physically rebel, but through telling their stories in a book, managed to change their community’s thinking and break down the control of those employing them. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Three lives, changed by one woman.

The Hours
25 December, 2002
Directed by: 
Stephen Daldry 
Produced by: 
Robert Fox
Scott Rudin

Written by: 
David Hare 
(Based on ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham)
Meryl Streep
Julianne Moore
Nicole Kidman

Summary: ‘The Hours’ focuses around the lives of three women and the significance of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’. The first woman is Woolf herself, who is attempting to write a first draft of the novel, while battling her feelings of depression. The second is a housewife, Laura Brown, living in 1940s Los Angeles – who believes she is far from adequate. ‘Mrs Dalloway’ drives Brown to reconsider the life she is leading. Finally, Clarissa Vaughan is living in modern-day New York, caring for her former lover who is dying of Aids – Richard Brown. Vaughan is throwing a party for Brown in recognition of his recent poetry prize, echoing the character of Clarissa Dalloway. All three women must confront their inner demons and deal with a form of suicide in their lives.
My Favourite Scene: A particularly memorable scene for me, was when Virginia’s sister’s children find a dead bird and decide to make it a grave for fun. Angelica is left behind and stays talking with Virginia. She questions her on death and what follows it. Virginia seems to recognise a similarity between her niece and herself - with Angelica saying ‘I don’t remember where I came from’ and Virginia replying ‘Nor do I’. After Angelica leaves with the others, Virginia remains a little while longer, laying down on the earth next to the bird.
The pair, although many years apart, seem to share a similar outlook on life in the moments they spend together with the dead bird. Angelica concludes that it looks very peaceful, and this portrays a side to the child, absent from her siblings. Although it would just be curiosity to ask the innocent questions Angelica does about death, she seems to reflect upon the event differently to the others. The connection between the two is rather touching and is clarified when Virginia’s sister says ‘Are we finished? Is the bird funeral complete?’. She simply does not reflect on issues in the same way her sister and daughter do. Although it isolates the pair, their world also appears a calm and interesting one - in comparison to those around them.
My Favourite Quotes: 
Clarissa Vaughan: You don’t have to go to the party, you don’t have to go to the ceremony, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You can do as you like.
Richard Brown: but I still have to face the hours, don’t I? I mean, the hours after the party, and the hours after that…
Virginia Woolf (to her sister who has arrived early): Leonard thinks it’s the end of civilization: People who are invited at 4 and arrive at 2:30.
Virginia Woolf: You cannot find peace by avoiding life, Leonard.
My Thoughts: I liked the way Daldry interweaved the three lives, showing the connections between them. The film reflected, not only the importance of Woolf’s work, but that the feelings of isolation are apparent in every time period and generation.
A criticism I would have of the film was of the relationship between Laura Brown and her young son. There were a couple of moments in their scenes when he seemed to be understanding of her suicidal state of mind – violently screaming when she leaves him to drive away alone, and proving her with comfort when she seems upset. While this made for a seemingly strong relationship in the film, I do not think that a boy of his age would have been able to notice the subtleties of her behaviour. I thought this element to the film was quite unrealistic.
I felt that overall ‘The Hours’ was a moving and interesting film. I was especially impressed with the script, which offered some very memorable thoughts and provided a powerful insight into the mind of Virginia Woolf. The film has been criticised for its being dark and depressing. However depression and suicide are the important, recurring themes in the film - and it is difficult to see how it could be changed. In some ways, there is a comforting message in the similarities in the three separate lives because it illustrates a connection between them - although they are alone in their own lives, they are together in their emotional state.