- Starring: Alan Rickman, Cuba Gooding Jr., David Oyelowo, Forest Whitaker, John Cusack, Lenny Kravitz, Liev Schreiber, Melissa Leo, Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, Terrence Howard, Vanessa Redgrave
- Summary: Lee Daniels' The Butler looks at the life of a White House butler who served eight presidents from 1952 to 1986 and had a unique front-row seat during a tumultuous period of American history.
- Director: Lee Daniels
- Genre(s): Biography, Drama, History
- More Details and Credits »
With The Butler, director Lee Daniels has managed to "Gump" the Civil Rights movement. That's not necessarily a bad thing but there are times when so many famous cameos threaten to become a distraction, especially since they're only tangentially germane to the main story.
Although director Lee Daniels dials things down a bit here, subtlety is not what he does. That strategy worked for “Precious’’ but turned his more recent “The Paperboy’’ into a feature-length howler.
Aug 30, 2013What a great movie! Great acting, writing and directing. I haven't seen a movie that I couldn't take my eyes off in a long time. This movie isWhat a great movie! Great acting, writing and directing. I haven't seen a movie that I couldn't take my eyes off in a long time. This movie is worth an Oscar. Cecil is a great actor. He is a great storyteller. I appreciate great work he put in the movie. It made me cry to learn what these people went through and it made me feel grateful for the way it is now. It shows you that America is becoming the best country now. Let's be grateful that all the people in this past made this change happen. All hate and segregation.. The people in the past changed that and made America into one. Overall, it is a masterpiece movie that I will always remember in my heart.… Expand
Mar 6, 2014i love forest whitaker in this great movie . it tells compasion and sort of like 12 years of slave . and it is very great to learn abouti love forest whitaker in this great movie . it tells compasion and sort of like 12 years of slave . and it is very great to learn about what its like and see and feels what its like how someone who live in south had to deal with the way they where treating with .… Expand
Aug 16, 2013"You hear nothing. You see nothing. You only serve." Such are the instructions Cecil Gaines receives as he embarks on his daunting new job at"You hear nothing. You see nothing. You only serve." Such are the instructions Cecil Gaines receives as he embarks on his daunting new job at the Eisenhower White House in "Lee Daniels' The Butler."
But of course Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker in a moving, grounded performance that anchors the film and blunts its riskier excesses, hears and sees everything.
And that means that over more than three decades on the job, he has a Forrest Gump-like view not only of the White House under seven presidents, but of the long arc of the civil rights struggle in 20th-century
Much has been said about this movie's potential future as an Oscar powerhouse. The speculation is natural especially given its star-studded cast but it takes away from the more important discussion of its simpler virtues, as an absorbing film that has the potential to teach a new generation (and remind an older one) about these crucial events.
The story is inspired by a Washington Post profile of Eugene Allen, a White House butler from 1952 to 1986. Some anecdotes remain, but much is different. Most importantly, Daniels and screenwriter Danny Strong create a father-son dynamic between Gaines and a rebellious older son, Louis (a terrific David Oyelowo) that serves as a backdrop against which the civil rights struggle can play out through the eyes of black characters, not white ones, for a refreshing change.
This is done most strikingly in a key montage in which Cecil and his fellow White House workers set up an elegant state dinner, china and crystal and all, while down South, Louis is protesting at a segregated lunch counter, leading to a harrowing confrontation.
But the story begins in 1926, with the death of Cecil's own father at the hands of the barbaric son of a landowner on a Georgia cotton farm. The elderly landowner (Vanessa Redgrave, beginning the celebrity cameo parade) takes Cecil into her home, where he first learns to be a butler how to act, she tells him, like the room is empty even when he's in it.
Years later, working in a Washington, D.C. hotel, Cecil is noticed by a White House official, leading to a job there. His wife, Gloria, is immensely proud. Gloria, as you may have heard, is played by one Oprah Winfrey, and her performance is often restrained and quite moving. To her credit, you're not thinking "Wow, Oprah!" in every scene; that in itself is no small triumph.
Not all the star performances are successful. When we first see Robin Williams as Eisenhower, his head bald, it almost feels like we're about to witness a "Saturday Night Live" skit. Williams doesn't overdo it, but the casting choice seems forced.
James Marsden, on the other hand, is a good choice as John F. Kennedy, with his handsome grin, boyish demeanour and Boston drawl. Liev Schreiber is amusing if a little broad as LBJ, and John Cusack is interesting as Richard Nixon, even though he looks nothing like him. Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda, making the most of her one scene, make a surprisingly satisfying Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
But what makes the film work, finally, are the soft-spoken Whitaker, whose dignified portrayal rivals his Oscar-winning work in "The Last King of Scotland," and the powerful Oyelowo, whose Louis progresses over the years from determined and brave to angry and cynical, and ultimately to a seasoned older man.
Their relationship gives structure to the broad story of civil rights in America a story crucial to tell, and crucial to hear. Daniels and company may not have made a masterpiece, but they have made a film you should see.… Expand
Aug 17, 2013Though some of the casting choices seemed odd (John Cusack as Richard Nixon???), the principals of the film were in fine form. Forest WhitakerThough some of the casting choices seemed odd (John Cusack as Richard Nixon???), the principals of the film were in fine form. Forest Whitaker stars as the man who served as a White House butler during eight administrations, quietly watching the Civil Rights movement unfold. For me, however, the real standouts though were Oprah Winfrey (his wife), Terrence Howard (his neighbor), David Oyelowo (his oldest son) and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan.
For the first half of the film, I was entranced by the scenes involving the fight for civil rights, but didn't embrace the central characters (mostly Whitaker) like I wanted to, BUT the last 45 minutes packed a punch that took me by surprise. Some amazing scenes close out this film, elevating it from "good" to "very good". History, politics, great acting and a "mute" Mariah Carey make this a must-see film. ***1/2 (out of 4)… Collapse
Nov 24, 2013This is a moving chronicle of a semi-fictionalized White House butler as seen through the civil rights movement. It has a fantastic montageThis is a moving chronicle of a semi-fictionalized White House butler as seen through the civil rights movement. It has a fantastic montage (or maybe more like a series of intercut scenes) of the black staff at the White House and the Freedom Riders in Alabama. It was one of the more amazing intercut sequences I've seen. I teared up twice during this movie. Whitaker is great.
This movie is also an over-the-top melodrama. It is so melodramatic that, even given the subject matter, I'm calling it melodramatic.
So I think a 6 is about right.
The movie is a biopic/history series of events, with a few threads tying it together. But given the subject matter, I can't really fault it for not having a more traditional structure or conventional dramatic arc. If you're interested in the premise, go see it.… Expand
Sep 6, 2013Long and tedious. Two stars maybe. Fair acting. Good film clips. Dull in parts and way too long ..Save your money. Definitely not worth theLong and tedious. Two stars maybe. Fair acting. Good film clips. Dull in parts and way too long ..Save your money. Definitely not worth the money or time.… Expand
Oct 1, 2013This movie is well done and Forest Whitaker gives a great performance, but I'm giving it a 1 because it just undeniably racist. Okay referenceThis movie is well done and Forest Whitaker gives a great performance, but I'm giving it a 1 because it just undeniably racist. Okay reference Obama great that's cool, first black president is a big deal I understand that. When you say that Reagan, one of the greatest presidents ever, was a racist...that pisses me off. There is no reason to have put that in the story. It's wrong and frankly just a low, pointless act of racism. White people can't do anything about it though but just wow, based a true story? Right, this is why racism still exists.… Expand
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