DreamWorks flick The Help, starring Viola Davis and Emma Stone, is defying meager expectations and proving to be a contender among critics and moviegoers. The adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel, about a small Southern town that's shaken up by the publication of a book from the point of view of African-American maids, has already grossed $9.4 million during its first two days of release, and is on track to earn $25 million during opening weekend.
The Help has been, ahem, helped by strong critical reviews, particularly for actress Viola Davis. Film guru Manohla Dargis of the LA Times writes, "Ms. Davis keeps her cool even as she warms your heart and does her job, often beautifully. She doesn't just turn Aibileen, something of a blur in the novel, into a fully dimensional character, she also helps lift up several weaker performances and invests this cautious, at times bizarrely buoyant, movie with the gravity it frequently seems to want to shrug off."
Despite some backlash from members of the Black community, Davis seems on track for her second Oscar nomination (her first was for the 2008 film Doubt) for her role as Aibileen.