Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blogging by the Bay: #BlogHer11 (Part 2) - BlogHer Special Screening of Disney's movie "The Help"

It takes courage to do the right thing...

One of the things that I was most looking forward to attending at BlogHer was a special advance screening of the Disney movie "The Help".  Disney extended an invitation to all the BlogHer attendees to a screening at the historic Reading Gaslamp Theater on 5th Avenue in San Diego. The theater was packed with conference goers and Disney even treated us all to FREE popcorn and soft drinks.

In "The Help," Emma Stone plays Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan, a young woman who is just returning to 1960's Jackson, Mississippi after completing four years of college. In her absence, all her childhood friends have married, had kids and are now living a modern day version of their parents lives, including having underpaid African American maids come in to their houses to cook, clean and raise their kids. Skeeter wants more than to just play bridge with her friends and climb the social ladder. She wants to be writer. So she gets a job at the local paper writing about the only thing that a woman in the 1960's South is allowed to write about: household cleaning.

Skeeter's best friend Hilly Holbrook (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) has became the controlling town socialite who keeps all the young wives in line by intimidating them if they fail to follow her lead. After Skeeter learns that her family's maid was fired by her mother after over 20 years of faithful service, she decides to write a book based on the point of view of the black maids in Jackson who daily leave their own homes and children to go and cook, clean and the raise kids in other homes where they are not even allowed to use the bathroom.

Skeeter's plans are complicated by the fact what she plans to do is considered illegal under Mississippi law and because Hilly is the town bigot who is pressuring everyone to build separate bathroom facilities for the maids because she believes that blacks and whites cannot even share the same bathrooms in the privacy of their own homes. 

Skeeter is friends with Elizabeth Leefolt (played by Ahna O'Reilly) and Skeeter talks Elizabeth's maid, Aibileen Clark into telling her story for the book.  Viola Davis gives the most wonderful performance of the movie as Aibileen, a maid who has lost her own son due to bigotry and is currently struggling with turning a blind eye to how Elizabeth treats her 3 year old daughter who Elizabeth considers to be ugly and therefore does not deserve any of her time or effort.

The movie follows how Skeeter finds out what the maids are really thinking and how woman, no matter the color of skin or the amount of money, are struggling with finding their way in a male dominated southern society.

This is a wonderful, complex movie that shines a light on the difficult way of life for most blacks in the 1960's south.  It is obvious in the movie that most people in town are not bigots like Hilly, but they are so afraid of losing their place in society, that they go along with keeping the status quo and treating their help just a little better than slaves.  The movie also shows the struggle of women in the 1960's who want to be more than housewives and mothers.

I predict were will be lots of Oscar nominations for this film.  Actress great Cicely Tyson had a small, but moving part in this film that had everyone crying in the audience as the Phelan maid who is fired after 20 years of service just to save face at a society dinner party. 

Actress Sissy Spacek was laugh-out-loud funny as Hilly's aging mother who is suffering from early Alzheimer's.  I think that actress Allison Janney who played Skeeter's mother will get an Oscar for her performance as a woman dieing of cancer and struggling with doing what she knows is right, even if it means losing all her society friends.  And also actress Octavia Spencer, was wonderful as Minny Jackson, the maid that first worked for the biggest bigot in town and then for the socialite from the wrong side of the tracks while also struggling with domestic violence in her own home.

After the movie, Disney threw a "The Help" themed party at the theater that included orderves based on southern favorities like peach cobbler, bread pudding, and pineapple upside and down cake and speciality drinks named for the movie characters that contained Tequila, Vodka, Bourbon and Apple Jack.

Each blogger was also given a movie themed gift bag that included a "church fan" and a tin of Carmel Cake Black Tea.

This is a wonderful movie that everyone will enjoy. It is rated PG-13 due to implied off screen violence, language and adult themes.

"The Help" opens in theaters on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011. 

Next up...
Stay tuned as I tell you about our other adventures in San Diego in the next installment in my series "BlogHer11: Blogging by the Bay".

NEXT IN THE SERIES: Blogging by the Bay: #BlogHer11 (Part 3) - Meeting Bob Harper from The Biggest Loser

Disclosure: I received complementry admission to "The Help" movie advance screening, popcorn, soft drinks, food during the after party and a movie themed gift bag.  All opinons are my own.

Embassy Suites sponsored 3 nights of my stay in San Diego for BlogHer11 at the beautiful Embassy Suites San Diego Bay Hotel

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