CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Lee Daniels’ The Butler.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler is now playing at theaters across Hampton Roads.
Lee Daniels’ the Butler stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil and Oprah Winfrey as his wife Gloria and a host of other Hollywood all stars, including Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, John Cusack, and Cuba Gooding Jr.
This film relates the true story of Cecil Gaines, a butler who work under eight U.S. Presidents during an amazing and disgraceful time in United States history.
Cecil Gaines grew up on a Southern cotton farm watching his parents be abused and mistreated. When his father is murdered, Cecil is taken into the house and taught how to be a house servant. It is what sets his whole story in motion and makes all that came after, possible.
Cecil’s story of being a butler to presidents runs parallel with that of the civil rights movement. All of the key points in history are here and seen as they related to and touched Cecil Gains’ life. The film chronicles history much in the same way Forrest Gump did, alongside the personal story of the lead character.
Here, one son, Charlie (Isaac White), goes off to the Vietnam War and the other son, Louis (David Oyelowo) becomes a Freedom Rider, works alongside Dr. King, and joins the Black Panther movement. While his sons stories are playing out, his wife’s does as well.
Gloria is played remarkably by Winfrey. Gloria has an edge to her as we see a very human woman come to life. Alcohol, infidelity, loneliness, true love and the bittersweet joy of motherhood are all here in this character.
But it is Cecil’s commitment to being the best domestic servant he can be that sets his story apart. And the grace and dignity Whitaker brings to Cecil makes this, for me, the role of Whitaker’s life. Cecil stands by with loyalty and honor watching President after President making decisions that affect his life, his sons’ lives, and the lives of those he works with and loves. Whitaker plays this perfectly.
The great challenge for Cecil was deciding what was right — was it life as he knew it (serving quietly, not bucking the system) or life as some thought it could be for African Americans (freedom and equality). It was the same idea that presented a challenge for the screenwriters Danny Strong and Wil Haygood. The screenplay struggles here and there — mostly with point of view, but Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy) stays the course as director. Despite a few minor flaws, Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a must see.
FOUR AND A HALF OUT OF FIVE COOKIES
Rated PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking.
SIDE NOTE: And be sure you call it by its name: Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Warner Bros. Pictures won the battle earlier this year preventing The Butler (this film’s original name) from being used. Warner Bros. has rights to a silent film that’s more than 100 years old with the title The Butler. So, The Weinstein Company added the directors name to the title for release. -sc