Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Butler

Lee Daniel's The Butler (2013)

Directed by Lee Daniels

Screenplay by Danny Strong

Based on the article, "A Butler Well Served by This Election" by Wil Haygood

Stars: Forest Whittaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Colman Domingo, Terrance Howard, Yaya Alafia, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Elijah Kelly, Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, Minka Kelly, Liev Schreiber,  Nelsan Ellis, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda and Clarence Williams III

This might be the regularity of my posts. It might be monthly. Work is gobbling up all my time. I missed some movies that I wanted to see. On the rarest of family outing, we went to the movies to see Lee Daniel's latest. I wanted to see the film, because it has all sorts of Oscar buzz surrounding it. The lesson I took from the movie is that the butler didn't do that much.

Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) has always known that he was always going to be a domestic. He made it his missions to be the best he could be. He made quite the impressions when the White House personally picks him to come serve the President personally. Starting at the Eisenhower administration, Gaines, his boozy wife, Gloria (Winfrey), militant son, Louis (Oyelowo) and idealistic baby son, Charlie (Kelly) watch the tides of the country change towards Black people. The Butler served under six presidents and his outlook is forever changed about the country he served silently.

The way that the movie was promoted, I thought that the Butler had a huge impact of the civil rights movement. It's not the case. It was a subtle shift in perception as white folks thought blacks were violent, inhuman, inferior. On the flip side, you have Louis that was one of the Freedom Riders that is more in your face with confronting the prejudice at that time.

I remember stories when I was growing up about my mother being spat on and called a nigger to her face at that time. It makes me appreciate what the older generation had to go through in order for me to have the same freedoms today.

Something about this film seemed forced and phony to me. It felt like a TV movie that has that overt message about racial bigotry. It felt like the characters were superfluous. They were more like archetypes of who black people were back then. It didn't highlight the fact that Gaines served six presidents. It glossed over keys moments of JFKs assassination or Martin Luther King's. They were afterthoughts. The movie felt lean and not something I could sink my teeth in to enjoy it.

My Rating

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