Written by Matt Mungle
Title: The Butler
Other than war, few events "timeline" our country so methodically as the advancement in race relations. From the plantations in the south to the election of our nation’s first black president; we can pinpoint the decade simply by where we are in these relationships. In the biographical drama, Lee Daniels' The Butler, (yes that is the actually title as odd as it seems), we get an eye witness account of the growth of our country through the eyes of one White House servant.
Forest Whitaker gives an award winning performance as Cecil Gaines. We follow him from childhood through his retirement age, primary focusing on the years he was a butler at the White House. He worked there over 20 years and had a table side in to all of the news worthy moments. But the story is also told through his family and how they dealt with the divisions of the 60s and 70s.
You can start ticking off on your fingers all of the award worthy performances found in this film. Oprah Winfrey portrays Cecil's wife Gloria. Though she stays in her comfort zone and dips into the Color Purple well, she still is fantastic. The story takes place over many years and we see several presidents come and go. Eisenhower (Robin Williams), Nixon (John Cusack), Kennedy (James Marsden), and Johnson (Liev Schreiber) all make an appearance.
It is powerful and emotional in its adaptation of the civil rights movement. You really get a sense of what these brave young people endured for the future of their race. But it gives equal time to the negative activists that hurt the cause more than helping. Though full of humor and heartwarming moments it is the struggle for justice that truly will give your soul a turn.
Lee Daniels' The Butler is rated PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking. Some of the dialogue and visual elements may be more suited for those 16 and over. At the same time it is good for young people to see what really took place in our country. So use your best judgment. Nothing is sensationalized or gratuitous.
If you like to shelter your young ones then maybe this isn't the film. For everyone else it is a must see. I give it 4.5 out of 5 plates of cookies. I was moved on many levels and walked out of there hoping for a better future.