Movie Reviews: Hugo and the Help

Two movie review days in a row. Whaddya know? Hugo and The Help have been sitting on my shelf waiting for watching for a week or two each now, and we can’t have that, can we? Yes, I realize I’m hopelessly behind the times in reviewing these movies, but I’m betting I’m not the only one out there. Maybe you’re behind, too? It’s all good here at Bryce’s Ramblings. We aim to please.

Ready?

First up, Hugo–a movie you sort of feel Obligated to Like, after all the tremendous buzz about it. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did I think it was an incredible movie? Not by a long shot. It’s just too slow, in my opinion. Slow to get going, plot-wise. Slow to resolve. It’s a deliberate movie. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the story of an orphan boy and an automaton. Takes place in Paris. Lots of gears and clockwork going on, with a touch of steampunk (just a shade, though). The visuals are fantastic. This is one I regret not having seen 3D, because I think it would have been stunning, and the 3D might honestly have aided the film. (But if you’re relying on 3D to aid the film, what does that say about your film?)

In the end, it was too sappy for me. Too filled with manipulation of the ol’ heart strings. If I feel sad or happy in a film, I’d like that film to earn that emotion from me. This one? You feel bad for the main kid because he’s a poor orphan trapped in a train station. I’d like to think I’m human enough to feel bad for any kid in that situation. Period.

I found the characters contrived and flat. There was no meat to them. I was told how to feel about them, and so that’s how I felt.

I don’t know–maybe it was an off night for me. The kids liked the movie. Denisa liked it. I thought it was just so so. Two and a half stars, and only that because of the visuals.

The Help, on the other hand, I really enjoyed–although I wasn’t inclined to at the beginning. Something about the premise: rich white girl interviewing black maids in the segregation South–didn’t sit right with me. I think it’s the way the movie was introduced–with the girl starting the first interview right off. She comes across as so . . . snooty and oblivious, and I didn’t like that. If the movie had kept that up, it would have lost me.

Thankfully it didn’t. It had the sense to veer off and start exploring the lives of the maids themselves, which were much more interesting. (Whenever the movie came back to the white narrator, I lost some interest–that story line just wasn’t nearly as captivating.)

What did I like about it? I liked the slice of life. It’s the same thing that attracts me to Mad Men and other period pieces like Downton Abbey. I like seeing how other people lived, how they thought. Of course, I realize that this is all pop culture, and the depiction I see may be very different from what it was really like, but it’s still something different–foreign to me. Does it have to be true to be instructional? I don’t think so.

Watching the Help, and seeing the reaction people had to segregation in the south, makes the recent racist Hunger Games remarks that much more appalling. You’d like to think things like that don’t happen anymore. You’d be wrong. Shocking and sad sad sad.

I wonder how a movie like The Help plays to a racist. If they see it and just turn it off, or if some of them watch it and are appalled by the behavior of the people in the film, not realizing they do the same thing themselves. Probably a bit of both, which then leads me to wonder if I do things like that. Judge people, treat people according to how I think they are rather than how I experience them to be, if that makes sense.

I must do it. You can try as hard as you like, but I still think that sooner or later, we all treat other people as objects and obstacles, rather than as people. The trick is being aware that you have a propensity–a lazy inclination to classify people into pre-made categories.

Sigh.

I’m getting too meta for myself, and I’m out of break time. Anything I say strike a chord or make you want to say something in response? Please feel free.

3 Comments

  • By Katya, April 4, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

    This is one I regret not having seen 3D, because I think it would have been stunning, and the 3D might honestly have aided the film.
    I, too, missed this in the theater, but from what I’ve heard, the 3D was stunning. (And not just stunning in the sense of “cool,” but stunning in the sense of, “used in new and groundbreaking ways.)

    (But if you’re relying on 3D to aid the film, what does that say about your film?)
    In this case, I think it says that Scorsese was working in the medium of 3D film, not in the medium of 2D film, so it loses something in transition to home viewing. (You might as well complain that a sculpture isn’t as impressive in a photograph. If he’s treating it as a genuinely different medium, that’s not the same as relying on a gimmick.)

  • By Bryce Moore, April 5, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

    That’s one of the best arguments in favor of 3D that I’ve ever heard. Makes me wish I’d seen the movie in theaters, and explains much of why critics could have adored it and I didn’t.

  • By Katya, April 9, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

    To be clear, I don’t think most or even many 3D directors are looking at the medium this way, but perhaps more directors will follow Scorsese’s lead (to the dismay of those of us who mostly watch movies at home instead of in the theater).

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