And guess what, I wasn’t disappointed!
Is it this year’s THE HELP? No. I wouldn’t elevate the film to that level but it does compare favorably to THE COLOR PURPLE.
“Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER” is a historical drama alright. But it’s really a fictional account of the real butler who served in the White House continuously from the early 1950’s right on through the Reagan Administration.
In other words, the storyline here is only inspired by true events.
The film is a racial melodrama beginning with Cecil Gaines’ (Forest Whitaker) backstory in the old south of the 1920’s where, as a young boy, he witnessed the rape of his mother (Mariah Carey) and murder of his father at the hands of the white cotton farm boss.
That’s when the bad guy’s older mother (Vanessa Redgrave) takes the boy under her wing and lays a path to what eventually would lead to Cecil becoming the top butler for decades at the White House.
But it wasn’t an easy marriage with the civil rights movement, family grief and Cecil’s total dedication to his job taking its toll.
Fascinating to watch, here the dramatic changes of American society through the decades unfold, coupled with the butler’s perception of changes of Presidents in the White House.
It’s all there. from Eisenhower’s (Robin Williams) dealings withe the Little Rock school integration to JFK’s (James Marsden) assassination—and everything in between.
Best presidential (cameo) portrayal is that of Ronald Reagan by Alan Rickman with a special nod to Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan.
Liev Schreiber plays a surprisingly believable LBJ, complete with the conducting of a staff meeting while sitting on the can.
Sorry, but I didn’t much buy into John Cusack’s portrayal of Richard Nixon or Nelsan Ellis as Martin Luther King, Jr.
Best line of the butler’s job description: “You hear nothing. You see nothing. You only serve.”
While Cecil Gaines service ended with the Reagan administration, the film concludes a few days after Barack Obama takes office and Cecil is invited back to the White House to meet the first ever black leader of the country.
As he is being shown the way to the Oval Office, Cecil offers a great line: “I know the way.”
Quite an emotional conclusion to a life story that the film’s soundtrack best describes as:
“You served your country well.”
“Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER” earning a solid B rating.
(Reviewed at Cinemark’s Palace on the Plaza)
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