The time, the early 1960's, the place, Jackson, Mississippi. Eugenia Phalen - Skeeter to her friends and family - has just graduated from Ole Miss and has returned home in part to take care of her seriously ill mother. Unlike her female friends and colleagues who used their Ole Miss time solely to find a husband, Skeeter, who has never dated or had a boyfriend despite wanting romance in her life, strives primarily for a career, either as a serious journalist or editorialist. In Skeeter's social circle, the family servants, called "the help", are exclusively black. The female servants do the cooking and cleaning, but their primary responsibility is child-rearing. The servants get passed down within families from generation to generation, so the child that they raised ultimately becomes the boss. Fifty-year-old Aibileen Clark is one such servant, who works for Skeeter's easily influenced friend, Elizabeth Leefolt. Skeeter asks Aibileen to help her with her newly acquired job, answering a housekeeping advice column. However, incidents that happen around Skeeter, including her mother seemingly being less than forthright about what happened to their own now absent female servant, the elderly Constantine Jefferson, who raised Skeeter and who Skeeter loved like a mother, make Skeeter come to the decision to write about the experiences of the black female servants in relation to their white bosses. Elaine Stein, a senior editor with Harper & Row in New York, approves the concept, but she knows that Skeeter getting the servants to talk, which Skeeter ultimately discovers is against the law in Mississippi, will be difficult if not impossible. Aibileen, the first and only servant who Skeeter asks, initially refuses Skeeter's request. But incidents around Aibileen ultimately get her and her acerbic-tongued best friend, Minny Jackson, who has long worked for the Walters family and now works for the Walters' racist daughter Hilly Holbrook, to talk to Skeeter on the sly about their experiences. One of those incidents involves Hilly's "Home Help Sanitation Initiative", which would ban any black servant from using their white employer's washroom. Minny's experiences also include those with Celia Foote, a young uncultured woman new to the area who has never had servants, who is now married to Hilly's old boyfriend Johnny Foote, and who is shunned by Hilly and her social circle for supposedly cheating with Johnny while he and she were still dating. Even if Harper & Row or any other firm publishes the book, Skeeter and by association any servant who helped her may have a continued rough road ahead in overcoming the resulting wrath, especially by Hilly and her type.
Oscar Actress in a Supporting Role 2012 (Octavia Spencer)
Nominated for Best Picture 2012
Nominated for Actress in a Leading Role 2012 (Viola Davis)
Nominated for Actress in a Supporting Role 2012 (Jessica Chastain)