Film
“Lee Daniels”™ The Butler” A Riveting Tale
By LaDale Anderson
Aug 18, 2013 - 5:02:49 PM

HOLLYWOOD—It’s not easy to deliver a compelling semi-biopic especially when the audience is not well aware of the character, but Lee Daniels does an exceptional job with his film “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”  Yes, the title has gone through quite a few legal battles that may throw a few people for a loop. It was originally titled “The Butler,” but legal issues prevented that title from being used.

 

The picture has plenty of star power with the likes of Jane Fonda, Robin Williams, Melissa Leo, John Cusack, Vanessa Redgrave and Terrence Howard to name a few, but the stars of this picture are Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo as members of the Gaines family. 

 

The movie revolves around telling the story Cecil Gaines (Whitaker), who is based on Eugene Allen, who served eight presidential terms during his tenure as an esteemed butler at the White House.  It’s quite historical watching the picture from the point of view of Gaines who witnesses some incredible moments in America’s history. 

 

From the destruction of segregation laws, to the death of President Kennedy to the Civil Rights Movement, events that not only polarized America, but had a direct impact on Gaines, his wife Gloria (Winfrey) and their rebellious son (Oyelowo) are highlighted. The picture begins with Cecil’s early life working in a cotton field where he learns a few harsh realities about life during that tumultuous era.

 

One strong facet of the picture is the racial overtones which will unnerve viewers a bit.  With the recent outcry of racism this summer from the Paula Deen debacle, to the antics inside the “Big Brother 15” house, it’s obvious that racism is still a touchy subject that Americans are still grappling with.  This picture forces us to open a debate about it by taking the audience back to a time period when it was at a fever high.

 

Winfrey is a revelation as Gloria, the stand by her man matriarch who grapples with alcoholism.  She’s stern, blunt, yet conflicted.  It’s a role that when I reflect, I couldn’t’ see anyone else portraying the character, but Winfrey.  That moment where she scolds her son for degrading his father for his job as a ”˜butler’ is haunting. It makes you reflect on your current job and how so many of us are defined by titles and how those titles are quite prevalent in today’s society.  Your title matters much more than what it is that you actually do, which is scary.  What message are we sending to our youth?

 

Whitaker delivers such a poised performance where he commands every single frame that he appears in.  It’s difficult to steer a picture where the title character rarely lets his emotions go, but Whitaker does so with precise care.  His home life is tumultuous compared to the pristine lifestyle he sees on a daily basis at The White House.


At times the movie is not an easy watch, heck any picture that touches on real life events, while it may be a bit overdramatized, will strike the audience at the core, but director Lee Daniels works magic through the use of the camera. It’s not overly preachy, with a cast so abundant, and trust me it is, ample screen time is given to each actor during their time to shine.  The focus is on the Gaines clan, told from the breadwinner, as he chronicles his moments spent at one of the most famed residences in the country. 

 

Seeing the butler who served so many being invited back to the very place he worked to be greeted by the first African-American president is quite a highlight to say the least. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is indeed a tale audiences should see.



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