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Plot: 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. Runtime: 132 mins Release Date: 15 Aug 2013
Go see this movie..It shook me to my core..As a white person I've never been more ashamed in my life..And saddened.. We are in the midst of racial struggle for equal rights right now..I sat in a packed theater with all white old people and you could've heard a pin drop.. It felt like a Forest Gump movie but with the racial history of our country as the topic.. and it was NOT a pretty picture. Thank you for doing this movie Lee, it is something we all need to see as Americans and we all have to face that we still have MAJOR racial bigotry. It must NOT be tolerated! I am white, 63 yrs <more>
old, born in Miami Fl and living in LA. Please go see this and then go about being an agent of change..we need to move on to better things and stamp out racism in America..it has NO place here..and we should all be ashamed of it's existence and allowing it to persist.. The cameos were priceless and OPRAH, tho I am not a fan was incredible!
From the opening scene of this film I was viscerally affected.Let's just get this out of the way: Forrest Whitaker gives a magnificent performance in this film. Whitaker can dial it back as he does in this film or dial it UP as he did in "The Last King of Scotland" and play either with equal aplomb.In terms of regard per performance, he's actually criminally underrated.I thought Oprah's performance was very good, but I also enjoyed Cuba Gooding, Jr's return to a substantive role. It is nice to see him doing something poignant and relevant again.The pace of the film <more>
is good and keeps you interested despite the flick's non-trivial running time.It's not always an easy watch, but it wasn't meant to be.This film is NOT meant to be a point-for-point reenactment of "the real" butler's life, but a weaving together of vignettes and actual historic occurrences. It is BASED ON a true story, but not a biopic. In this vain, the movie succeeds flawlessly.There are clever casting choices Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan REALLY IS a hoot for anyone who knows their history and while admittedly some of the actors playing presidents lack the visages of their famous characters, the acting itself defeats these deficiencies. I found Liev Schriber's LBJ hysterical AND accurate. From the opening scenes of brutal rape, murder and disregard for human life, to the struggle to maintain a semblance of decency and the fight for basic quality of life, this film depicts the struggle of MANY black people of the time - told through the prism of this butler.I know this to be true because there are similar tales of these occurrences in my OWN family. I don't have to look far.This film won't play well with the "get over it" set - or anyone who has ever used the term "race baiter." These folks are already approaching this flick with a certain agenda - and they aren't ready for it's truisms. Unfortunately, there are enough of them to result in the ridiculously low rating this film has so far undeservedly garnered on IMDb. Even the most ardent detractor who GENUINELY disliked this film without political agenda would have to admit that this film isn't a 1 star offering.A rating that low is downright silly.That said, for those of us who actually live in the real world and understand historical context, you will probably enjoy this film immensely. Like others, I experienced applause at the end of the film's showing, and I'd call the crowd mix about 50/50 black-to-white at my suburban theater. This would indicate to me, at least anecdotally that the entire crowd appreciated the film.This film is not meant to be a pure biography per se... in fact, I'd say it's more about a FAMILY than even the butler or his job in general, but we pay attention because this particular butler happened to serve in the White House.This film is REALLY about the generational struggles that occur in EVERY family, but made even more powerful by the juxtaposition and immediacy of the civil rights movement. This makes it STILL relevant, as its problems still echo in the headlines today.If you wind up drawing parallels between Emmett Till, Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin after watching this film - then you probably got the intent- and most likely enjoyed it. If you are of the mind that racism isn't that bad, the 50s in the south were "the good ol' days" and even the holocaust was probably overblown, then this flick isn't for you.Might I suggest "Gone with the Wind?"
The Butler is a historical film that was based on the real-life account of Eugene Allen, who worked at the White House during eight presidential terms from Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan. During his employment at the White House,the African-American son of a sharecropper felt privileged to be an eyewitness to history and he became witness to the implementation of most of the landmark pieces of legislation like the dismantling the Jim Crow system of racial segregation.It stars Oscar winner Forest Whitaker together with an ensemble cast that includes fellow Oscar-winners Cuba Gooding, Jr., <more>
Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Robin Williams and Melissa Leo, as well as nominees Terrence Howard and Oprah Winfrey and many others.Danny Strong wrote the screenplay and Lee Daniels directs the film.The story begins in 1926 in a plantation in the Deep South.Cecil Baines,the character based on Allen and portrayed by Whitaker, becomes witness to his father's murder on the cotton field for protesting his mother's rape at the hand of an overseer. Because the perpetrator was never brought to justice, he gets the message at an early age that a white man can get away with a crime and not be punished for it. To avoid the same fate as his father, Cecil skips town as a teenager, settling in Washington, DC where he lands steady work as a bartender in a hotel catering to an upscale clientele. There he also meets Gloria whom he later marries and start a family with. Cecil's sterling reputation as a polite and deferential black man eventually reaches the White House, where he takes a position where he starts as a pantry man and was later promoted to butler, and then eventually to Maître d'hôtel; and he becomes witness to many events in history particularly the long arc of the civil rights movement.This is a surprisingly pleasant film as it is always engaging and entertaining.Each of the scenes has its purpose and complimentary energy.Also,the actors all seem unified in a joint cause to tell a great story about the African-American fight for equality.In addition to that,it consists of a lot of great performances starting from Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines.He has a grounded performance that anchors the film and blunts its riskier excesses, hears and sees everything.Aside from that,we are treated to see Oprah Winfrey delivers in her more dramatic scenes that are enjoyable to watch.Also worthy of mention is Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan and John Cusack as President Richard Nixon.Overall,it is one powerful film that is truly satisfying and worth the watch.
I'll start by stating that I'm a 62 year old white male. I did not grow up in the South - but I did live for a year in Louisiana in the early 70's. I lived through every news event that was portrayed in the movie - that is, I saw and read about them in the actual news when these things happened. Many posters on the boards say that the movie is inaccurate. Then they go on to say things like: His name was changed, he didn't have 2 sons, he didn't look anything like Forest Whitaker, Nixon was miscast, etc. True, the details of The Butler's family life have been <more>
dramatized. That is called movie making. The movie was historically accurate in every important way. I don't say that every single detail was true, nor am I saying the portrayal of these historical events was 100% exactly as portrayed. But it is far more accurate and important than your average popcorn POS that pervades the theaters these days. I want to state that I have rarely, if ever, been as emotionally affected by any movie. It is brilliant, provocative, artistic, and has a social purpose. Like it or not, persons of African descent have been victimized, downtrodden, brutalized, persecuted, tortured, lynched, raped, and murdered - and only because of their skin color. HOORAY to Lee Daniels for making this movie! Hooray to Forest for being a sensitive, intelligent, highly gifted actor. Hooray to Oprah, whose performance is beyond stellar. Hooray to anyone involved with this movie. Not to say that ALL movies have to take you to the places that this movie does. I guess there is a place for Pacific Rim and Wolverine. So if you think that movies have no business delving into our racist and brutal history, then see one of those movies. But to say that this movie is irrelevant or inaccurate - well, as I said I lived through it all. It is not. What it is, is an exceptional, mature movie for those that want a little more than monsters the fictional kind . My wife and I went through a whole packet of tissues - we were blubbering like fools. BRAVO!!!!! 9 rather than 10 stars only because the 10 star reviews are often discounted as over- the-top hero worship. But if Ironman, The Avengers, etc are 10 stars and I liked those , this movie rates 100 stars - because it is 10X better, more important, more relevant, and more thought provoking.
This film is highly recommended.Based on a true story about Eugene Allen, a full-time White House butler who saw to all the needs and requests of eight presidents, from Truman to Reagan, Lee Daniel's The Butler renames him as Cecil Gaines and takes certain liberties in fictionalizing his story. The film begins with the Eisenhower years and uses these presidential administrations as its backdrop that span fifty plus years to showcase the civil rights movement and its effects on race relations within our country. The Butler mostly succeeds, especially in its scenes of anger and violence, <more>
and it's to Daniel's credit that he doesn't shy away from the horrors of prejudice and hatred, or try to sugarcoat the injustices during these times. This is flawed but epic filmmaking.Racism is a complicated issue, even if the Supreme Court relegates it as a problem only found in our past. It is usually mishandled in the media with a pious insincerity and an overdose of uplifting and positive reaffirmation about the goodness found in a nation's people. The Butler does have its superficial moments, but fortunately, they are outweighed by the honesty and craft of the filmmakers involved and a cast of African-American actors that elevate the script to powerful importance. It's the white folks that are played as pure caricature and offset the movie's impact. Lee Daniels' The Butler what an oppressive official title! remains even more forceful in its quieter moments depicting family and friends outside the political trappings. Forest Whitaker plays Cecil and it's a commanding performance. His subtle work is one of non-reaction, of internalizing the more insensitive moments that came with the job hearing the many racial slurs while serving dinner at various political functions, playing his role as non-existent servant and third class citizen to seven presidents, timidly requesting equal pay as a White House staff member . This talented actor shrewdly underplays the anger and the sorrow so skillfully. At his side are his boozy wife, Gloria, well played by Oprah Winfrey, and his two sons, the rebellious Louis David Oyelowo and mild-mannered Charlie Elijah Kelley . Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lenny Kravitz portray his butler colleagues and Terence Howard and Adriane Lenox are his close friends. All contribute greatly to the film's realistic tone and strong message. , and he underplays the anger and the sorrow so skillfully. At his side are his boozy wife, Gloria, well played by Oprah Winfrey, and his two sons, the rebellious Louis David Oyelowo and mild-mannered Charlie Elijah Kelley . Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lenny Kravitz portray his butler colleagues and Terence Howard and Adriane Lenox are his close friends. All contribute greatly to the film's realistic tone and message.Where the film is less successful is in its White House scenes. There are some serious flaws due to the miscasting of many of the actors playing our former leaders. Their cameo appearances of the presidents are literally pale imitations of the originals, with only Alan Rickman as Reagan providing some pleasure. The sub-par application of make-up of these political icons, plus the instant identification of the real actors' already established screen personas, disables their portrayals almost immediately. Their prosthetics and make-up looks like silly putty redux. This film sports some of the worse make-up since J. Edgar, which seriously hindered the credibility of the performances. Far from presidential material: John Cusack as Nixon and James Marsten as Kennedy . Otherwise, production values are generally top notch. The period costumes, editing, and art direction adds to the authenticity, with a fine pop music score punctuating the different eras.The script by Danny Strong, based on Wil Haywood's magazine article, outlines a strong history lesson without much real character development. Most of the characters feel less like real people and more like contrived plot devices that move the actions and events along the historical time-lines. The plot overdoes its Forrest Gump scenes that force Louis' character to experience important life-changing factual incidents the Woolworth counter demonstration, the Freedom Riders, King's assassination which tend to mar most of the film's gripping realism. To his credit, Daniels creates many riveting scenes of horror and injustice depicting the political changes during these decades. The director does manipulate the material and becomes a bit preachy with his message, but his vision is so straightforward and focuses as he creates a lasting testament to those undaunted crusaders of equal rights. Especially memorable: his Woolworth protest scene filmed in sharp contrast to an elegant White House dinner party. More allegory than biography, Lee Daniels' The Butler expertly blends those uncertain times with the fractured relationship between father and sons, giving the film a more emotional slant. The film chronicles America's darker times and sheds light on these somewhat forgotten events and unsung heroes. Just that fact makes The Butler an important film and one that needs to be seen. GRADE: B+ANY COMMENTS: Please contact me at: [email protected]
Just returned home from viewing this matinée and have been reading other reviews ever since. Mine will be short. I was not at all disappointed in the movie. Most of the casting and acting was excellent. I agree with most other critics that John Cusack as Nixon was too much of a stretch. But Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan and Minka Kelly as Jackie Kennedy made up for that. Historical correctness, at times, was off a bit but not so much that it caused problems for me. Most importantly, I was touched by the movie, even shed a few tears in parts, especially when I viewed man's inhumanity to man <more>
and the breaking and mending of family relationships. This is a movie worth seeing,pondering,researching, and discussing.
The Butler has two faces and excellent acting (by herbqedi)
In the first 15 minutes spanning 30 years, the title character learns the hard way how to cope in white man's world by having two faces and being quietly competent and otherwise invisible. He does this so well he lands in the White House. He is successful at building functional but not fully honest relationships. This goes for his work relationships and for his home relationships. Unsaid is that he never has had an honest relationship with himself and his own feelings. That leaves his wife needing more and not knowing what or why, so she turns to alcohol. That is the underlying story that <more>
Lee Daniels tells by not telling it explicitly just as The Butler never could communicate explicitly even to himself what really has meaning to him or who he is - he just copes and dutifully does his jobs and raises his own family the best ways he knows how. His son Louis is the opposite and expresses loudly and at great personal consequence, his thoughts, feelings, pains, and emotions. The Butler's internal defense network and coping mechanisms preclude his ability to accept Louis in this way. Charles, on the other hand, is the dutiful son who loves his country and dies serving it in Vietnam. At the same tine the Butler is a dutiful and responsible but aloof observer in his own life, he is doing the same at the White House. He observes remarkable things but is always cognizant that he must not show it - he is invisible and competent. Period. I thought all the Presidential portrayals were compelling. It is an interesting juxtaposition as these men also must have distinct private and public faces. The backdrop for all of this was the Civil Rights Movement in the South where two faces was not a choice but were forced on African-Americans explicitly until they were no longer tolerated.Throughout, all the acting is uniformly excellent. I found some jarring contrasts between where the movie is making its points subtly and where it chooses to make its points with sledgehammers. Whitaker's character's narration also at times seemed in the period he was showing and in others seemed totally retrospective.Altogether, this is terrific way to spend 2 hours and 15 minutes. If you are open to these studies in duality, you will be rewarded with top- flight entertainment and some things to think about.
A Biographical Triumph That May Be a Bit Dry Sometimes (by dmurilloroman)
I got tickets to see this film a day early because this has been on the top of my watch list for months and I was not disappointed. Lee Daniels' The Butler contains all the elements you want in a bio-pic with spot on portrayals and an efficient script that smoothly goes through all the time periods. The film is a true journey that may have you at the brink of tears or have you joyfully laughing. At times it tries to hard to make you feel any emotion, the movie falls victim to a formula where there is a tragedy about every 10 minutes and it only becomes a cliché rather than being <more>
effective. On the other hand though, you practically get oozed through Cecil Gaines's eyes which will simply astound you. The movie has been branded as a "Black Forrest Gump" which actually is pretty accurate except that the main character, Cecil Gaines, isn't as charismatic or as fully characterized until the near end. It was a minor disappointment to see that the numerous presidents throughout weren't that involved in the film as I would have liked but their respective portrayals were jaw dropping, not only in their appearances but also with their realistic performances and mannerisms. James Marsden representation of J.F.K. is by far the closest you can get performance wise, Marsden captured both his youthfulness and good heartiness as well. This may be a little dry sometimes and I was somewhat exhausted near the conclusion but the real emotional peak is at the end. Lee Daniel's shows his dominance both dramatically and emotionally in this enjoyable yet still flawed film that you should definitely take a look at.
When, I first walked out of the theatre for Lee Daniels' The Butler, I have to say that I was overall very impressed with the film and was thinking of how, when I eventually went to review the film, that I would give it a perfect, if not very high rating for my reviews on this site. I didn't write my review immediately after I saw the film and that was probably a good thing. I say this because as I thought of the film over a course of a couple of days, I found myself having some major problems with the film and some things with it just did not sit comfortably with me. The film which <more>
claims is based on a true story is only very loosely based on a true story with a lot of the events in the film being embellished, if not totally made up by the film's screenwriter Danny Strong. I think the main problem I had with the film was it's bias which screamed out blatantly clear after I saw the film and thought about it for awhile. The main character of Cecil Gaines, serves under many presidents while being the butler at the White House. He goes from Eisenhower all the way to Reagan. It shows Cecil's different interactions with the many different presidents, but one thing that I picked up was that all the democratic presidents such as Kennedy, are really portrayed in a very good way. They are shown as caring, empathetic and really wanting what is best for the country. However all the republican presidents are shown in a much harsher if not critical way. They are often shown as irritable, coarse and rough along the edges as well as the film subtly shows that some of their responses and decisions on how to deal with world events at that time were foolish and that more or less, they did not always know what was best for America, and perhaps maybe they did not know what they were doing. There did seem to be a favouring bias towards the democratic presidents. Then we get to the last ten to fifteen minutes of the film, where I thought what I was watching was almost pure propaganda and a huge endorsement by everyone involved with the making of The Butler. It involves the 2008 presidential election and it's star candidate who eventually won that election, but also was re-elected for a second term last November. Now, I am not trying to take political sides here, but just in the last several minutes how the film idolizes this president and makes it look like all the oppression and hurdles that the African American people struggled with over the years has now come to an end because America has just elected it's first African American president. Please don't take my words out of context, or think that what I am saying is racially motivated, or based on hate, because it is not. I understand how many difficulties the African Americans went through over the years with slavery, segregation, racism and terror and violence based on hatred from others on something as foolish as how someone looks. I totally and completely get that. I also get that in the eyes of many, having an African American being elected president of the United States of America, is a big deal and in a way it shows that America has come a long way as a country and hopefully with this decision it means more tolerance towards African Americans, but everyone else as well. I completely grasp and comprehend that this was an important and history defining moment. To comment on whether I am a supporter of Barack Obama, is neither here nor there and it is not relevant and has nothing to do with this review. What, I am saying is while I can totally see how this event seems to have made up for all the injustices and wrongs, I felt that it did not work in this film and it felt overly sentimental and like a political endorsement, especially seeing as he is still in office. In the film Cecil Gaines, is not a political person and he does not take sides with any of the presidents, or their decisions, but for a film about a person who is apolitical, how did the final product become so political and endorse our current president as well as toot the democratic parties horn with support? This was my main problem with the film because it felt like a commercial and a paid endorsement by the cast and crew and the film unfortunately suffers for it. However there is still a lot of good in The Butler as well. The cast and crew all do phenomenal acting jobs, the script while it does have it's problems which I mentioned above, is for the most part compelling and extremely entertaining. The film has tragic and hard to watch moments, but also moments of lightness and humour and they are balanced well. The direction and attention to detail for the time is all credible here as well. Lee Daniel's The Butler is still a very good film, but if it hadn't decided to shoot it's mouth off as a political endorsement it would have been much better and my rating of it much higher.