Strong Mid-Week Opening for “The Help”

So much for the backlash (see below post). The Help, the Civil Rights era comic drama adapted from the Kathryn Stockett novel of the same name, picked up more than $5.5 million at the box office on opening day, Wednesday.

The film, directed by Tate Taylor and starring Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, and Viola Davis, has received generally positive reviews, with a few raves. It notched a 64 metascore at Metacritic, and a 73% Tomatometer rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

“Laughter, which is ladled on thick as gravy, proves to be the secret ingredient – turning what should be a feel-bad movie about those troubled times into a heart-warming surprise,” Betsy Sharkey wrote in the Los Angeles Times. Andrew O’Hehir, in his Salon review, said “The Help definitely worked on me as a consummate tear-jerker with a terrific cast, and it’s pretty much the summer’s only decent Hollywood drama.”

Viola Davis on the Backlash Against “The Help”

The Help, Tate Taylor‘s adaptation of the Kathryn Stockett ’60s-set novel about black maids and their white bosses in Jackson, Miss., has prompted some African-American observers to express reservations about the lens through which the story is told.

Screen veteran Viola Davis, a star of the film, is frustrated by those responses, which largely have come from those who haven’t had the benefit of first seeing the movie or, in some cases, reading the book.

Davis, a Tony winner with dozens of film and television roles to her credit, including last year’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Eat Pray Love, and 2008’s Doubt, is one of several black actresses out front in the movie. The list also includes Octavia Spencer, the great Cicely Tyson, now 77, Aunjanue Ellis, and Roslyn Ruff. The seemingly ubiquitous Emma Stone (Crazy, Stupid, Love, Friends With Benefits) gets top billing.

“There are few movies coming out this year with African-American women in them,” Tyson told Entertainment Weekly. “Very few are being made. Black actresses have enough obstacles in our way without someone protesting an opportunity for us to show our work on screen. It’s one thing if you go see The Help and you don’t like it. But give it a chance!”

The Help opens wide today.