Film Review – The Butler
Director: Lee Daniels
Screenplay: Danny Strong
Cast: Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey
Genre: Biographical Drama
* – Poor
** – Average
*** – Good
**** – Very Good
***** – Excellent
The Butler is loosely based on the real life of Eugen Allen. The film stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, an African-American who witnesses notable events of the 20th century during his 34 years serving as a White House butler.
After leaving the farm he grew up on Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) goes out in to the world to try and make a living for himself. At first it is difficult but eventually he finds work as an apprentice butler at the White House. Shortly afterward, he marries his life-long wife, Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) who supports him in everything he does.
During his 34 years as a butler at the White House Gaines served under eight U.S. presidents beginning with Harry S. Truman. His position as butler gave him knowledge of events going on in the White House. He witnessed first hand some of history’s major events as well as the changing perspectives on race in the political arena.
The acting in this movies is nothing to marvel over. But it is not the acting that will make you enjoy this movie but the historical events that Gaines witnessed during his employment at the White House.
I am not used to Whitaker playing such a meek and subservient character. In his last two movies (The Last King of Scotland and Repo Men), he played fears and dominating characters who are not afraid to kill or be killed. So the meek Whitaker did not sit well with me, I could not get used to that. But on the other hand Oprah has not lost her acting skills. She is, as always, a very good actress and it seems to come naturally to her. I loved her performance so much,did not even notice I was watching Oprah. This is what makes her so unique. She so convincingly transforms into the character she portrays, that the viewer overlooks the Oprah identity soon after the beginning of the movie, and only follows the character.
This entire story is amazing to me just for the fact that Allen actually experienced most of the historical events that happened in the U.S first hand. He was there when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and instead of going to the funeral he stayed and served the dignitaries. He was there when Richard Nixon was president and announced his resignation after the whole Watergate saga. Gaines was also still at the White House when Ronald Reagan almost got assassinated. He also met Martin Luther King and finally when he retires he is invited by Barack Obama to the White House. And he is at awe that he gets to meet the first black president of the United States.
And yet, despite all the pressure to write a book about his experiences at the White House and tell all about the presidents he served under, he never did. He took all of it to the grave with him.