Lee Daniels' The Butler - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Lee Daniels' The Butler Reviews

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December 13, 2015
The Butler is a powerful, important film to watch. It shows the flaws in America's past, gives us a human glimpse of our history and our presidents and is an effective family drama as well. I expected The Butler to play it safe, but it is a daring and gritty movie.
½ December 10, 2015
Gripping representation of American 20th Century black civil rights history through the eyes of Cecil Gaines, butler at the White House for more than 20 years. Sometimes a bit too tear-jerky, but overall ... A nice touch is that all American presidents are played by well known actors. Look out for professor Snape as Ronald Reagan :-)
½ December 4, 2015
Good movie great acting, although I couldn't stand the obama crap at the end every time i hear or see anything obama related it disgusts me so much I get sick to my stomach so that kinda ruined the movie for me.
Super Reviewer
½ November 30, 2015
I have never seen a more pretentious film. This is an incredibly clumsy and disjointed movie but it thinks it's the shit. A lot of that comes from Daniels, who is about as subtle as a freight train. Don't watch this, it's a waste of time.
November 9, 2015
I have wanted to see this movie since it was broadcasted in Japan. At last I could see it.

The butler (Lee Daniels' The Butler) is a American historical movie which was broadcasted in 2013 and produced by Lee Daniels and written by Danny Strong. This movie is based on a true-life story of Eugene Allen. The leading man is Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines.

The main character is a butler of White House whose name is Cecil Gaines.The story is not about inside of White House but the changing of the United States. The beginning of the story is Cecil's childhood. In 1926, he and his family were black peoples and slave of white farmer in Macon, the United States. His father was killed by a white man. A old woman who lives in the farm made him to be 'House Nigger.' This experience as House Nigger helped him to live later. He became an adult and left the farm. He managed to get his job and was taught how to behave in front of his customers by a man who was also black person and work with him. The man recommend to him that he should work in a Washington D.C. hotel. He met his wife Gloria there. They had two children, Louis and Charlie. One day, he was hired as a butler of White House. After then he served successive seven presidents, Eisenhower to Reagan for 34 years. He had various experiences through his job as the butler with bewildering changes in the United States. While he worked for the president, his son, Louis joined the group that fought for black discrimination. He took part in a lot of campaigns and arrested many times. Cecil against him. Charlie became army and was dead in the Vietnam War. In the Reagan administration, Cecil changed the rules of the black butler's allowance. After that, he and his wife invited to a party as a guests. He was served by his colleagues and his thought changed. He felt empty to do his job as a butler and resigned from his post. The end of the story is that he invited to White House after Barack Obama was elected as the first African-American president in the United States.

I learned and understood a lot about racism in the United States of the time from this movie. I assumed that I could be crying because the Japanese title is "Tears of The president 's Butler." It sounds like a plenty of tears, isn't it?(only me?) But I didn't cry. Of course I moved, especially the part of Cecil and his wife visits his hometown, and they make sure their love each other. As I expected this movie didn't make me bored and it was good to see such a great movie.
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November 5, 2015
Disliked much of it. Very unfair. Unfair to RMN, and Ike. And made the Butler out to be an uncle Tom but his radical son joining the Black Power group was glorified. A big disappointment.
November 4, 2015
I have wanted to see this movie since it broadcasted in Japan. At last I could see it. The main character is a butler of White House whose name is Cecil Gaines. The story is not about inside of White House but the changing of the United States. I learned and understood a lot about racism in the United States of the time from this movie. I assumed that I could be crying because the Japanese title is "Tears of The president 's Butler." It sounds like a plenty of tears, isn't it?(only me?) But I didn't cry. Of course I moved, especially the part of Cecil and his wife visits his hometown, and they make sure their love each other. As I expected this movie didn't make me bored and it was good to see such a great movie.
November 4, 2015
It was good but sometimes all these kind of movies are all the same and historical inaccuracies. Most times they change things in these kind of movies but all in all it was good to a point
November 4, 2015
A broadly stroked encapsulation of the Civil Rights movement is ultimately a commendable attempt to place black ppl back at the center of their own story, yet it is also a finely etched family drama with stand out work from Whitaker and Oprah. The result is an affecting crowd-pleaser
October 26, 2015
Gut-wrenching and emotionally affecting, excellent acting.
October 11, 2015
The cast is what shines in this biopic, even if the narrative is a tad uneven.
September 28, 2015
An uneven narrative and more than a little manipulative emotive provocation, keeps The Butler from reaching true greatness.
½ September 25, 2015
Didn't feel like seeing a movie about a butler or yet another movie about civil rights, but this turned out to be so much more. The father-son dynamic, choosing our routes in life, sacrifice, integrity, and the strength in serving others all prevailed as themes that carried this very well-written story. I apologize for waiting so long to watch it.
September 25, 2015
No doubt this is Forest Whitaker's best role to date, he was legendary here. I was expecting this to be a biopic, but this felt like a Civil Right's history lesson as well(which is not bad mind you, just wasn't expecting it). A little bit longer than I would have liked as some scenes felt a bit unnecessary, but it was still decent. I seriously LOL'd when I saw who they chose to portray Reagan hah I just couldn't buy it as all I was thinking was Snape had become President. That was some funny stuff.
½ September 24, 2015
I give this a C -( 70).
½ September 16, 2015
There are few things more boring than sitting through a historical biopic written by a screenwriter who can't find a narrative stream of history other than to turn it into a choppy highlight reel; second only to that is history that treads safe, uncomplicated, unchallenging waters. Lee Daniels' The Butler suffers under the weight of both of these miscalculations. It's a polished vanilla syntax of history that deals with the most turbulent chapters of the mid-20th century American history but is only satisfied in telling you what you want to see and hear. This is the most unchallenging portrait of the Civil Rights Movement since The Help.

The movie is apparently based on true events and takes place over a span of about 80 years, seen through the eyes of Cecil Gaines (Forrest Whittaker), a black sharecropper's son from Mississippi who witnessed his father's murder at the hands of a white man and grew up seemingly with a determination to remain in the place designated for him by the social norms of the time. As an adult he found a job working as a butler in the White House where he would remain in service for 40 years, from Eisenhower all the way through the Reagan years. Meanwhile (apparently in scenes we never get to see) he meets and marries his lifelong partner Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) and has two boys.

Much of Cecil's life is seen in two spaces: First is his job, which encourages him to keep his head down and his mouth shut despite the fact that over the years eight different United States Presidents constantly ask his opinion on equal rights. Second his is relationship with his eldest son Louis (Daniel Oyelowo) who refuses a subservient role and takes an active stance in Civil Rights despite the old man's objections.

The narrative of this film is frustrating. It deals with Cecil's view of history that is only seen in bits and pieces that take place in jump cuts so sudden that we lose our place in the story. We see the Little Rock lunch counter protests. We see the forced school integration. We see the Freedom Riders. We see Vietnam. We see The Kennedy Assassination. We see the march to Selma. We see the assassination of Martin Luther King. We see The Black Panthers. These events are brought up but never really dealt with in a fluid way. The movie jumps quickly from one major event in history to the next without ever giving us the feeling of the passage of time. There's no sense here of a life being lived. When the movie was over I had no idea who Cecil Gaines was other than the broad overview of his life as a tiny pebble in a history lesson that wouldn't slow down long enough for me to learn anything I didn't already know.

Plus, the major historical events are spliced in (very oddly, I might add) with his conflicts with Cecil's son, and with a bizarre and clumsily written role for Oprah Winfrey as Cecil's wife who spends a lot of screen time dealing with alcoholism and infidelity (one strange encounter suggests she's screwing the guy next door but it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie). Her character is so off balance from the rest of the story that it feels like it's in a different movie.

The goings on at the White House are brief and pointless. Cecil is in service to every U.S. President from Eisenhower to Reagan and almost every Chief Executive is played by an actor who looks like someone else: Robin Williams play Eisenhower, but looks like Truman. James Marsden plays Jack Kennedy, but looks like Bobby. Liev Schrieber plays LBJ, but looks like Joe McCarthy. John Cusack plays Nixon, but looks like Kevin Spacey. Then there's Alan Rickman whose strange performance as Ronald Reagan is mercifully brief. These actors walk into the picture for a minute or two, spout some identifier as to the current crises they're facing and then disappear from the movie.

This is a very frustrating movie. It doesn't delve into history, so much as gloss over it and clunk it up with a lot of side plots that aren't necessary. I think the screenwriter, Danny Strong, needed a better idea of what kind of story he wanted to write. This could have been a nice portrait of a butler who worked in the White House for much of the century, like an American retelling of The Remains of the Day. Or it could simply have dealt with the father/son conflict. Instead, it tries to be all things to all people. It deals safely with a chapter of American history that few disagree on, and filters it in a very unchallenging way. It pays lip service to history without dealing with the events in question. If you want to see these events, you're better off looking at a documentary like Eyes on the Prize or 4 Little Girls. As it stands Lee Daniels' The Butler plays like a history textbook with pages torn out.
½ September 10, 2015
Very good and interesting movie.
Isaac
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2015
A generally enjoyable -- if partially miscast and bloated -- biopic that covers so much historical ground it's difficult not to admire.
September 6, 2015
Too political would not recommend wasting your money!
August 25, 2015
fantastic cast. everyone should know this story
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