If you haven't seen it yet, it's based on a book by the same name, about the lives of black housemaids working for white families in Jackson, Mississippi in the early sixties.
The novel, by Kathryn Stockett, is like Peyton Place in its effects on Jackson's social set. I plan to buy the book and read it.
The book centers around the stories of two housemaids, Aibileen and Minny, who work for a couple of wealthy white housewives. Their employers are friends with Eugenia Phelan, who works at the local newspaper and wants to be a writer. Eugenia, after observing one of her friends being Really Rude and Tasteless in front of her housemaid one day, decides she'd like to write a book from the housemaids' point of view, their untold stories.
Bryce Dallas Howard plays Hilly Holbrook, the primary villainess, who is so prejudiced and so mean that you want to ruin her best dress with red nail polish--which does not sound very vicious on the surface, but this character would take it as a mortal, eternal insult.
There's the white lady who is the town's social outcast (She married up). Played by Jessica Chastain, she is really a cool and nice person, sort of like Luna Lovegood with no self-esteem.
There is the villainess' mother, played by Sissy Spacek. I follow Sissy Spacek's career because she comes from my Grandma Smith's home town. Anyway, her character is an independent thinker who doesn't take any guff from her mean-spirited daughter and calls her out on her behavior. By the end of the movie, I was wondering how the daughter could grow up to be such a selfish twit when her mother was so awesome and down-to-earth. She was completely enjoying her daughter's schadenfreude by the end of the movie, and so was the audience.
Minny Jackson, played by Octavia Spencer, has the great misfortune of being Hilly Holbrook's maid (God help her). One day, she goes too far--in a sheerly brilliant, but awful, awful way, and is summarily fired. This turns out to be a good thing, because she gets hired by Cecily Foote, the town's white outcast, who desperately needs to learn how to be a society housewife, even if no one will set foot in her home. She also has a secret that Minny helps her find the courage to resolve.
Aibileen, played by Viola Davis, is Minny's best friend, and Minny's friendship is the only thing that keeps Aibileen going after her son dies in a work-related accident. She works for a Mrs. Leefolt and takes care of Mrs. Leefolt's children. Aibileen is wonderful at child-rearing, to the point that you might wish she had raised you, or at least had a hand in the raising of you. She knows how to fix what the parents do wrong.
Spencer and Davis are brilliant, and I hope they get Oscar awards for this movie. I would say Davis more so than Spencer, if I had to choose between the two. The way Aibileen's son died is horrible, and the scene in which she tells the story took some real, soul-deep digging, from an acting standpoint.
Anyway...Yes, I suppose it is a chick flick, because most of the characters are female, but it is well worth seeing, whether you're a man or woman. If this doesn't win Best Picture at the Oscars, whichever movie does win had better be very, very good.