The Butler Review
The Butler sees Lee Daniels enlist the help of an all-star cast to tell the true story of a White House butler who served during seven presidential administrations.
What’s it about? Set during three of the most historic decades in American history, The Butler tells the story of one African-American man who went from life on a cotton farm to become a respected butler in the White House.
While not only serving some of America’s most notable presidents and helping to shape their attitudes, we also see his family’s involvement in helping to change the nation.
Verdict: There’s already Oscar buzz about this film and it’s not hard to see why with performances from Forest Whitaker, David Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey that truly bring heart to what could feel like a rushed tale.
The film starts with strong and disturbing imagery that shows the film doesn’t side-step around the horrors of the time, where we’re introduced to a time when you might have to listen to your mother being raped or see people hanging in the middle of the street.
But in the midst of it all, one man managed to make his way up to the White House, working alongside fellow African-Americans who were considered to be good enough to serve the country’s most important men.
While this film could be just a happy tale about Cecil Gaines as a White House aide, it delves into his family life and reveals how his dedication to his job affected his marriage, as well as how he affected the next generation.
Cecil and his son battle with each other throughout the film and they perfectly reflect the thoughts and issues felt throughout the civil rights movement at the time. While some historic moments seem to only get a small amount of screen time, we can still understand their impact through the reactions of the family.
You can’t help but get distracted when a new star arrives on screen but once you get over the joy of seeing John Cusack as Richard Nixon or Alan Rickman playing Ronald Reagan, you focus on the performances and get back into the story again. And it’s just fun to know that past presidents willingly used the loo with the door open while butlers and security alike were forced to pretend they can’t smell the stench.
Whenever Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey are on screen together, you can’t look away. Forest is strong and resilient displaying the inner strength of a character who has to be subservient. Meanwhile Oprah once again impresses with her ability to transform herself into a character so far removed from her famous personality.
The ending is a bit predictable but you wouldn’t want it any other way. And if you’re like me, you’ll still shed a few tears anyway.
Final words: While having so many big names can be quite distracting, this is a beautiful film based on a man who’s story deserves to be told for generations to come.
The Butler is in UK cinemas on 15 November 2013.