N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis has trashed The Help, calling it a “big ole slab of honey-glazed hokum.” And she’s pretty much dismissed every performance in the fiim except for Viola Davis‘s, which means, I suspect, that unless the entire world disagrees Davis has the heat and Octavia Spencer is out and that’s it.
(l. to r.) Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis in The Help.
Which is too bad because I feel Spencer’s performance is also quite special. She’s broad at times but she touches bottom. If you ask me it’s her and Davis, her and Davis, her and Davis. Wait…Zacharek to the rescue. “The whole idea of The Help is that a maid isn’t just a maid, and Davis and her co-star, Octavia Spencer, breathe life into that idea,” she says. “As the quietly crusading Minny, Spencer has some of the movie’s best comic moments, though she never lets us lose sight of the justifiable anger and frustration that have come to rule her life.”
Davis “keeps her cool even as she warms your heart and does her job, often beautifully,” Dargis writes. “She doesn’t just turn Aibileen, something of a blur in the novel, into a fully dimensional character, she also helps lift up several weaker performances and invests this cautious, at times bizarrely buoyant, movie with the gravity it frequently seems to want to shrug off.”
Edelstein is saying that The Help “belongs to Viola Davis..it’s a tough, beautifully judged performance — it gives this too-soft movie a spine.”