David's Review of Lee Daniels' The Butler

  • 8 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
    Lee Daniels' The Butler

    Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)

    A well-meaning, ambitious story of real-life butler to the presidents, Cecil Gaines (Oscar nom for Forest Whittaker) and his life from the 1920's to present day. From Eisenhower 'til Reagan (Robin Williams, James Marsden, John Cusack, Live Schereiber & Alan Rickman are featured). The film's scope of servitude, social and racial unrest and eventual activism is a broad, heavy topics to bear. When director Daniels adds marriage and family to the mix, it almost topples the focus. Personally, I preferred this part of the film. Oprah Winfrey (Oscar take note) plays his wife who loves her husband, but tells him in a powerful scene "You need to take care of our house, not just the White House". Their oldest son (well played by David Oyelowo) is radicalizing in face of racism, while their youngest (Elijah Kelley) wants to serve his country...in Vietnam. Mixing the two diverse cultures (can't be political in the White House) and the pressure of dealing with a family being torn at the seems because of social unrest, is much to bear. There's plenty of comic moments too (courtesy of Lenny Kravitz & Cuba Gooding Jr. as butler's who also serve the First Families). The film plays smart only catching bits of the president's lives as seen through Cecil's eyes. Moments of genuine emotion are prevalent involving Jacqueline Kennedy in a blood soaked dress, a marriage coming apart from alcoholism and the emergence of Barak Obama in 2008. I liked The BUTLER, but wanted to love it - it tackles many topics and I hope to see a more detailed film about the racial unrest in the South (strong parallels to the division in class today). Oscar nominations will shine upon the film too. It's like The HELP (but better) with it's social message and no doubt will connect with audiences.

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