The first I heard of The Help, I was skeptical. Mostly because we’re in a time when original thinking is non-existent, so, my thought was that it was just another movie exposing the atrocities of the civil rights era. Then I watched it and was won over by its passion and emotion.

The Help is the story of a group of black women who are maids in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960’s. The story is told by a young white woman who was basically raised by her family’s black maid and now wants to tell their story. The relationship between the writer and the maids creates great controversy and ultimately results in a book being published and widely distributed.

Skeeter is the young white woman played by Emma Stone; Minny is one of the central maids played by Octavia Spencer and Aibileen is the other central maid in the story, played by Viola Spencer. These performances are outstanding; Particularly Minny.

Minny was the maid with the fire while Abileen was the more subservient type. As a result, Minny finds herself looking for a new job early in the movie. She ends up working for Celia Foote; A newlywed who married society’s most eligible bachelor, but, is shunned by the society ladies because of her working class background.

I would feel remiss if I didn’t also give some credit to Celia, played by Jessica Chastain, for her performance. The union of Minny with Celia was the most gratifying relationship of the film. Celia gives Minny respect; Minny gives Celia support and confidence. They embody what we hope the lady-of-the-house/maid relationship should be.

And Octavia Spencer passes my litmus test – she convinced me that she WAS Minny. Viola Davis is also convincing – she reminds me of many black women I knew as a child. Collectively, all of the maids represent a good cross-section of personalities for the time.

But, the movie is not without its reality – it’s based on real characters. The reality of that time is that, maids were not treated with respect. This film displays that in vivid detail. Of course some of it is hard to watch, but, I would imagine it was even harder to live. That’s the value of this film – it takes you there.

I recently saw an interview where the writer of the book – Kathryn Stockett – talked about how difficult it was getting this film made. I don’t know why; Like Skeeter, she’s a young white woman who grew up in Jackson and lived in this world, so, the story has truth on its side. Stories like this are always a sure thing with consumers. But, studio execs with no connection to this world would likely not want to support it.

Regardless of what else comes along, The Help is sure to be a contender for many reasons. I expect this will clean up during awards season because it has the right formula – Several strong performances surrounded by a really strong story.