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Cinematically speaking, there’s a whole lot to be thankful for this year, but there’s perhaps nothing in the movie realm more stellar than Viola Davis in The Help.
It’s not exactly an easy task to stand out in The Help, as we have tons of great actresses lighting up the silver screen. Easy A’s Emma Stone makes good on her promise from last year and churns out an appropriately nuanced dramatic performance; Octavia Spencer adds emotional depth to a role that could have easily been one-note; Jessica Chastain hits a homerun with the typical dumb blonde role.
And that’s just scratching the surface. Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson, and Bryce Dallas Howard all give commendable performances as well, but it’s Davis that makes the movie her own and gives it a heart, turning The Help from Lifetime’s special movie event of the week into a cinematic triumph.
I’ve already discussed quite a bit about how Davis’ performance works to save the film, so it might be a good time to delve into the performance itself. If the above accolades haven’t convinced you, let me assure that it’s a masterwork in the art of acting. Now for the performance.
Davis is the first character we see in the film, and from that very first glimpse to the final moments, she’s arresting and captivating as the maid Aibileen. She doesn’t need lots of showy, tear-stained scenes or hysterics to bring this dramatic character to life. The portrayal never goes over-the-top, preferring for a more realistic and down-to-earth earnestness.
We’re in the latter half of November right now, which means that we’re in the midst of Oscar season, and while we’re on that note, the Best Actress honor could be Viola Davis’ to lose. While I’ve yet to see Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, Elizabeth Olsten in Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn among others, it’d be difficult for any one of them to surmount Davis’ performance as the best of the year.