By: Greg Brand, Jr.
Film: Lee Daniel’s The Butler
Featuring an inconspicuously placed all-star cast and an unforgettable story, Lee Daniel’s The Butler manages to tell a stunning historical tale that is both emotional and entertaining.
While this film carries the tag, “based on a true story” it follows the life of fictional domestic Cecil Gaines (Oscar winner Forest Whitaker) as he lives through several decades of service in the White House as a Butler.
In spite of its title, the film takes viewers on a ride that covers a multi-faceted look at the life of a man and the world as it changes right in front of his eyes.
The film opens in the deep south not long after the end of slavery. The viewers get to see a boy and his parents work in the cotton fields of a plantation living a seemingly happy life, when suddenly a light-hearted moment is quickly punctuated by a stark reminder of times they are living in.
In a rapidly paced turn of events, the boy’s existence is forever change as he begins a journey through life that will ultimately lead him from those cotton fields to the White House.
For a brief while his life is unsettled until a moment of desperation and a little luck put him on track to his future while using the same skills he began learning as a child.
As the story shows Gaines as he delivers tireless service to his country, another story blossoms that follows his son (David Oyelowo) as he grows up and goes off to college at Fisk University. While in Nashville he becomes involved in the Civil Rights Movement as a protestor, Freedom Rider and eventual Black Panther.
His son’s life ends up being a direct opposing reflection to the father as the younger of the two fights the system of discrimination impacting the world.
One of this film’s greatest strengths is it careful attention to detail. Viewers get a chance to see the lives and the skills of servants and how much of people were affected by the racist culture of this country’s past. Another view showcased is the preparation and consequences of the sit-ins of the 1950s and early 1960s. Views will gain a new intimate understand of what those young people went through for modern Americans to get equal rights.
This film is positively littered with superstar cameos and solid performances. Strong performances are delivered by the entire main cast. Whittaker is a stand out as the strong and careful Gaines. Oyelowo is also brilliant as the growing, determined and independent son Louis. Pleasant surprises also come from
Oprah Winfrey and Elijah Kelly as the mother and younger Gaines brother.
James Mardsen, Minka Kelly, Jane Fonda, John Cusack, Cuba Gooding Jr, Liev Schrieber, Mariah Carey, David Banner, Vanessa Redgrave, Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, Nelsan Ellis and Alan Rickman among several others all appear in the film and add great performances to the film.
Bottom Line: Lee Daniel’s The Butler is one of the best movie experiences of the year. The cast, story and context all work together to create something that is so well done, it becomes so much more than a movie.