If you are one of the few who haven’t seen “The Help”, you better rent it before the Oscars on February 26. This amazing little film had my eyes running like faucets with its poignant and powerful message and fabulous talent. The film, which is set in Mississippi in the early 1960s, mirrors a time in history when African American woman served as housekeepers to affluent white women in the area. It is told from the three perspectives — of housemaids Aibileen (Viola Davis), Minny (Octavia Spencer), and budding journalist and University of Mississippi graduate, Skeeter (Emma Stone).
The film, made with only $25 million, grossed over $200 million at the U.S. box office, and was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Actress for Davis and best supporting actress for both Spencer and Jessica Chastain. “The Help” also took home the Screen Actors Guild award for best performance by a cast, while Davis took home the award for Best Female Actor. Upon receiving her SAG award, Davis’ speech moved the audience: “What is there but a dream, you can’t trade in your dream for another dream. I am so proud to be an actor.”
Davis’ portrayal of Aibileen is honest and heartfelt, and you can relate to the character in each line: “No one had ever asked me what it feels like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free. And I got to thinking about all the people I know. And the things I seen and done. My boy Treelore always said we going to have a writer in the family one day. I guess it’s going to be me.” On her ability to play these underrated characters, Davis told the L.A. Times, “Human life is about a culmination of moments, and 99 percent of those are quiet but powerful. I am always interested and intrigued with watching that.” “I think that Aibileen represented probably 99.9 percent of the people who existed in 1963, which is a person that outwardly went to work, did their job, got along to get along … but inside were all these burning dreams and hopes and desires and humor … but just no kind of avenue or permission was given for them to explore that,” Davis said.
Her story is inspirational: “I’m still that little– you know, black girl from Central Falls, Rhode Island with the short afro, buying my Snickers from the Salvation Army, you know, going to school and just dreaming big. Never really, really believing that I was going to see those dreams to fruition … And then, all of a sudden, you’re there. And then, people kind of think you look cute.” The role of Aibileen wasn’t always easy to play, and Davis found her scenes without spoken lines to be the most difficult. “I have to tell you the most wrenching scene for me was the bridge club scenes when I had nothing to say. I did that for two weeks, it was very difficult. I would go home mad. And I’d — eat– yeah, another caramel cake and lemon pie. And call Octavia,” Davis said. Spencer, Davis’ dear friend and colleague, in addition to a Golden Globe took home the SAG award for Best Support Actress for her role as Minny in the film. Minny’s spunky attitude made her a lovable and funny character to watch on screen, but Spencer’s appreciation and gratitude is what made us love her even more.
“I have to say it was a privilege to work on a film that gave a voice to so many women who made it possible for me to be standing here tonight. These women represented our mothers, their grandmothers, and it was their courage them facing the challenges that faced every day in their life their dignity and grace and I thank you by honoring me you honor them,” she said upon receiving her SAG award. Despite her win, her pre-event preparations were a little painful for Spencer, who admitted to wearing three pairs of spanks: “I was trying to overcompensate.
I felt bloated at the Globes, and I thought, well, if two pair — I mean, I look — it’s smooth. I’m going to go for three. After that I won’t ever do it again … It was a cautionary tale.” The film, which is nominated for four Academy Awards, has received even more Oscar buzz after the cast’s big SAG win. Many speculate that their big win at the SAG awards would help solidify their win at the Oscars for the Best Picture Academy Award. Stacey Snider, DreamWorks partner, talked about when she realized the film would be a success: “At the very end of it when Aibileen gives her last, you know, soliloquy, the monologue, you could hear a pin drop. And people were in tears. And I thought to myself, wow, this is something is happening here.”
ABC News’ Deborah Roberts contributed to this report.