Blu-ray Review: The Help

The Help Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: DreamWorks/Walt Disney Studios | DIRECTOR: Tate Taylor | CAST: Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Octavia Spencer
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 12/6/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD $39.99, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy $44.99, Standard-Definition Digital Download $29.99, High-Definition Digital Download $39.99
BONUSES: featurettes, deleted scenes, music video
SPECS: PG-13 | 146 min. | Comedy-drama | 1.85:1 aspect ratio | 5.1 DTS-HD audio | English, French, Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

One of the most loved movies of 2011, The Help is a must-own Blu-ray, scoring well for both the film and the special features.

The HelpBased on the New York Times best-selling book by Kathryn Stockett, the film tells the story of Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone, Easy A), a college graduate living in 1960s Mississippi who decides to write a tell-all book about the lives of the black maids who look after the babies of Jackson’s rich white women (including Bryce Dallas Howard, Hereafter). Despite the dangers of the time, some maids secretly help her (Viola Davis of Trust, Octavia Spencer of Flypaper).

Funny and touching, The Help is one of those movies that makes you cry and laugh — often at the same time — so keep your tissues handy and beware of drinking in case of spit-takes.

The performances are strong across the board. Although Stone and Davis portray the main characters, the movie is mostly an ensemble. Delightful standouts are Jessica Chastain (The Debt) as a bubbly outcast woman who’s new to Jackson, Allison Janney (Life During Wartime) as Stone’s appearance-loving mother and Sissy Spacek (Get Low) as Howard’s eccentric and hilarious mother.

But the stars, plus Howard, who’s delightfully nasty, and the brilliant Spencer, who’s delightfully vengeful, make this film such a joy.

Of course, they had a wonderful script to work with, written by writer/director Tate Taylor in only his second feature film after 2008’s Pretty Ugly People.

Fans of Stockett’s book, of which there are many, will be pleased that their favorite author is included in the special features on the Blu-ray. So often, the authors of the book on which movies are based are generally ignored except for the credit, but with The Help, that’s not the case. That could partly be due to the fact that Stockett is an old friend of Taylor’s.

They both talk about their friendship in the making-of featurette, appropriately titled “Making of The Help: From Friendship to Film.” This piece is not the normal making-of featurette and that’s good, because this is much more interesting. There’s no “he/she is a genius.” Instead, Stockett talks about her inspiration for the book and the difficulties she had in getting it published. The movie, we learn, might not have been made without relationships, from the friendship of Stockett and Taylor, to his friendship with Spencer and Janney, all of which helped the book become a film.

The filmmakers salute the women who were maids in Mississippi in the 1960s in “In Their Own Words: A Tribute To the Maids of Mississippi.” In the 10-minute piece, Spencer interviews a number of women, including the woman who raised Taylor when he was a boy.

The Blu-ray also includes a collection of deleted scenes that are worth a look and the music video for Mary J. Blige’s “The Living Proof.”

And as for how this sweet film looks and sounds in high-definition, no complaints here. The Help is colorful and those colors stand out beautifully, and the sound is clear and crisp, so we can enjoy all those Southern accents.

The Blu-ray doesn’t include a recipe for Minny’s chocolate pie, but that’s probably a good thing.

 

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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.