Segregation solely on the basis of skin color that permeates every strata of American society– from the schoolhouses to the churchhouses, from restaurants to cinemahouses, to public transportation and public and private bathrooms– this is essentially what this story is about. Just years before the Civil Rights movement was started by Martin Luther King Jr., the state of affairs in the United States of America was one where there were deep-rooted prejudices against the Black people in the country who were not only afforded fewer opportunities in education and employment, but were openly and unapologetically treated badly.
Set in the framework of a small town in Mississippi, this concept of segregation is brilliantly highlighted in the story of Abilene and Minny, two maids who are interviewed by a spunky young woman who is seemingly the only non-prejudiced person in those parts. It is from her initiatives and effort that the story of life as a maid, or ‘the help’ is recorded and published– to the shock, chagrin, and utter outrage of many. But it is due to the awareness that comes from this that political and social change eventually comes about. In a way, it is shocking to think that these were events from a mere forty-some years ago!
I found the performances remarkable, and the direction very crafty. Viola Davis as the maid, and Emma Stone as the journalist gave impeccable performances, as did the little girl who was so very fortunate to have been taught the self-improvment mantra: You is kind, you is smart, you is important! Good job, all around!