Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)
Critic Consensus: Gut-wrenching and emotionally affecting, Lee Daniels' The Butler overcomes an uneven narrative thanks to strong performances from an all-star cast.
LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man's life and family. Forest Whitaker stars as the butler with Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, and many more. Academy Award (R) nominated Lee Daniels (PRECIOUS) directs and co-wrote the script with Emmy (R)-award winning Danny Strong (GAME CHANGE). (c) Weinstein … More
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as Cecil Gaines
as Gloria Gaines
as Richard Nixon
as Carter Wilson
as Ronald Reagan
as Nancy Reagan
as John F. Kennedy
as Jacqueline Kennedy
as Louis Gaines
as Thomas Westfall
as Dwight D. Eisenhower
as H.R. Haldeman
as Hattie Pearl
as James Holloway
as Lyndon B. Johnson
as Carol Hammie
as Freddie Fallows
as Martin Luther King, ...
as Charlie Gaines
as Rev. James Lawson
as Earl Gaines
as Annabeth Westfall
as Cecil Gaines
as Young Cecil Gaines (...
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Critic Reviews for Lee Daniels' The Butler
It's not an interpretation of actual history as much as it is a reduced revision of movie history.
The excitement comes from watching the director's rude energy chafe up against the constraints of a traditional Oscar-bait biopic.
The Butler is often impressively acted, beautifully shot and clearly designed to try to pick up a heartfelt award or two. But, as a film, it's too fragmented to carry its own weight on its shoulders and is over- burdened by a starry cast.
The Butler tells an obviously important and inspiring story, but the actual movie is laughable.
A large-scale, middle-of-the-road work that is entertaining and moving in the way that many other movies about the struggle for race equality have been.
Audience Reviews for Lee Daniels' The Butler
A somewhat moving film done with grace and dignity, but lacking the emotional heft to be profound. Although Whitaker and Winfrey deliver, the performances of the rest of the A-List ensemble cast is hit-or-miss. Entertaining but unnervingly episodic.
This film tries to accomplish several tasks without doing so, and doesn't quite meet expectations at every turn. The premise follows butler Cecil Gaines (Whitaker) as he works for many generations of presidents; through their tenures at the White House. Throw in celebrity cameo depictions of presidents (Robin Williams, James Marsden, Liev Shreiber) and some feel-good humor and it's obvious Oscar bait. In actuality the film centers on Cecil and his family, and their fight for civil rights while being surrounded by the nation's turmoil. It tries to be explicit with language and violence, but it's meant to be more subdued. It never quite seems realistic or historically accurate, because it tries to fit into historical events that mattered. His children fall into every historical event or movement dealing with civil rights. One son knows and marches with Martin Luther King Jr. then becomes a Black Panther. Another goes to Vietnam. Meanwhile Cecil influences policy with every president he meets. Sadly, this is supposed to be based on a true story, but liberties were gratuitously taken: the name of the butler is changed, his influence is exaggerated, and the stories about his sons are completely fabricated. Every performance seems strained, especially Oprah's and Whitaker's, and it shows with every passing moment. In the end Ronald Reagan is shown as the hero, and it slows until it's a painful crawl. It's too long, too pretentious, and just too problematic for its own good.
I'm really glad I saw this movie if just for the fact that I am ignorant of the Civil Rights movement and what it meant to real live people and in fact, I think that's when this movie came alive: when the Freedom Riders and the Black Panthers took the stage. That these kids might be at odds with their conservative-let's-not-rock-the-boat parents was a revelation. Weird casting choice for presidents (John Cusack as Nixon? Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower?) managed to nonetheless work. I didn't remember that Reagan was such a butt-head about race. Forest Whitaker, the Big O, are great.
Lee Daniels' The Butler Quotes
|Louis Gaines:||What are you doing here?|
|Cecil Gaines:||I came here to protest with you.|
|Cecil Gaines:||Americans always turn a blind eye to our own. We look out to the world and judge. We hear about the concentration camps, but these camps went on for 200 years in America.|
|Cecil Gaines:||I know my way around.|
|John F. Kennedy:||I'll be looking forward to working with you the next four years.|
|Jacqueline Kennedy:||Eight years.|
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