As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man's life, family, and American society.
Cecil Gaines was a sharecropper's son who grew up in the 1920s as a domestic servant for the white family who casually destroyed his. Eventually striking out on his own, Cecil becomes a hotel valet of such efficiency and discreteness in the 1950s that he becomes a butler in the White House itself. There, Cecil would serve numerous US Presidents over the decades as a passive witness of history with the American Civil Rights Movement gaining momentum even as his family has troubles of its own. As his wife, Gloria, struggles with her addictions and his defiant eldest son, Louis, strives for a just world, Cecil must decide whether he should take action in his own way. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
There are, undoubtedly, scenes in Lee Daniel's The Butler that made me feel quite uncomfortable. Most certainly, many other viewers will echo similar discomfort experienced while watching this near great movie. Unfortunately, the existence of atrocities and flagrant injustices in our not too distant past doesn't mean that they should be whitewashed or airbrushed out of our collective memories! (Absolutely no pun intended here)
Don't let me give you the wrong impression about The BUTLER. In just over 2 hours until end credits, there are but a scant few minutes of images that some of us would, perhaps, just as soon forget. At the heart of this remarkable film, is a tale of a great generational divide between estranged father and first-born son; redemption, change, forgiveness, repentance and catharsis are also pivotal elements in this "Inspired by a True Story" drama painted on a historical backdrop canvass.
Although The BUTLER does highlight the tremendous progress our society has made in the past century toward fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King's "Dream", obviously, there is an undercurrent underscoring the fact that this area is one that involves constant self-reinvention to ensure continued improvement.
There are multiple noteworthy elements here. First, Oprah Winfrey's triumphant return to an on-screen leading role. Despite having done numerous voice-overs in recent years, BUTLER represents the end of a 15 year hiatus, when she participated in the ill-fated BELOVED. Her performance, although not quite Oscar nomination caliber, would win, without a doubt, an Academy Award for best "Billionaire Female Actor on the Planet", if such a prize existed! Accepting this role surely resulted in reduced income for Oprah in 2013. If that doesn't make her participation in this project a "Labor of Love", what would?
BUTLER is my pick for 2013 Best Ensemble Performance Golden Globe. Cast Credits give the impression of a page lifted directly from a Who's Who in Acting & Entertainment! Cuba Gooding, Jr.; Robin Williams, in a refreshing, but brief, appearance as a pensive and soft-spoken President Eisenhower; Vanessa Redgrave; Clarence Williams III; James Marsden as President Kennedy; John Cusack, as an ever brooding and duplicitous President Nixon; David Oyelowo, as the rebellious prodigal son; Terence Howard; Lenny Kravitz; Mariah Carey; Jane Fonda, who sparkled as Nancy Reagan and Alan Rickman as her careful-not-to-step-on-her-toes husband, Ronald! The only weak link, in my opinion, was Liev Schreiber as President Lyndon B. Johnson. His portrayal just did not resonate with me.
Quite frankly, despite analyzing carefully for any historical missteps, there were only a couple rather minor ones that were noticeable. About three-quarters into BUTLER, the story-line, focus and viewer interest level seemed to sputter a bit, but got right back on track rather quickly.
The film did attempt to provide moments of comic relief from the oftentimes somber on-screen events, most of them evoking healthy laughter but a handful of them kind of fell flat. If it weren't for these few mentioned flaws, BUTLER most definitely would have been rewarded with a 10*Star* rating! When released on DVD, rest assured it will be added to my 800+ collection!
Any comments, questions or observations, in English o en Español, are most welcome!
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