Lee Daniel's The Butler movie review

By Max Maier | Jan 20, 2014

There are plenty of movies that have come out that carry strong, and emotional situations based on historical issues. These films can be hit or miss for several different factors, how in your face the message is, and of course if the movie is any good. Movies like this usually carry a lot of weight on them because of this, and some movies crumble. However, The Butler stands tall and at the ready to serve you a quality movie.

The movie starts in early 1900's America, where we are introduced to our main character, Cecil. He and his parents are slaves on a plantation, but after tragedy strikes Cecil, he is taken inside the house and made a house servant, basically a butler to the people of the house. After several years, he leaves and "gets" a job as a butler at a hotel, where he is mentored by the professional butler there. After several years of service and learning there, Cecil (now played by Forest Whitaker) is given the opportunity to be a butler in Washington D.C. Cecil eventually gets the opportunity to serve in the White House after all of his hard work. It is here we see Cecil work for several different administrations of presidency, from Eisenhower to Regan. Meanwhile, his wife, Gloria(played by Oprah Winfrey), (who he met at the hotel but we never see happen, quite odd) is living life as a house wife and raising their multiple children. The oldest of which, named Earl, grows up to be a freedom fighter and an equal rights activist. The plot of the movie isn't really one main conflict, yes there are struggles, but we see their lives basically, struggles and all.

And this is the only part of the movie I'm mostly torn on. The story is very well written, with tons of interesting points, but the story's focus isn't on what you would expect (the presidents and the White House and so on), the story focuses more on black oppression and everyone's reactions based on it. There is nothing wrong with that, but it wasn't the plot I was looking for. I wanted to see Cecil working in the White House, working with the presidents, and we get that, but it kind of plays a second note to the black oppression and Cecil's home life with his family. You can't even say this is mainly a story about Cecil, sure he is the main character, but we spend SO much time on his son's actions and Gloria's complaining, that it takes away from Cecil's fascinating life in our nation's capital.
Like I said, the story isn't a bad one, the focus was just off. There were so many things going on, a lot of them not involving Cecil, it just felt scattered. I wish the plot would've tidied up a bit and featured more of what was advertised, but there is nothing wrong with tackling strong historical issues, which the movie does very well. And Cecil's life is very engaging and you are invested in seeing where it goes, which is always nice.
But the big positive of this movie is the cast. Whitaker is always a powerhouse actor in whatever he does, and his performance as Cecil is absolutely inspired. He isn't a perfect human being, and you see that in his face, but he doesn't let it show and does his job very well. Cecil is actually a very good role model, which is a treat for movies nowadays. He never does anything wrong, he just does his job and cares for his family, while being human at the same time, it is a great performance. Now, I am no fan of Oprah in real life, for many reasons, but her performance as Gloria is very good. My only complaint there is that I feel she overreacts a tiny bit much involving Cecil's job. She is a house mom with no income, yet she always yells at Cecil for working to support the family. Kind of bugged me. Earl is kind of annoying, he is very passionate for his goals, which is admirable, but you just want to slap him and shout "Get a grip!" But the performance is good.
But the showstealer of this movie is the presidents. All of the presidents are played by high-end celebrities and every performance is spot on and incredible. This actors portray their president with such perfection and accuracy, sometimes it is scary. The only negative you could find is if they don't always look like their president counterpart, but that doesn't apply to all of them. They are all acted perfectly and these performances were just a delight to see.

Overall, I am glad I saw The Butler. It was a movie filled with great performances and many solid and emotional moments. Sure, the story is a bit scattered, and I'm not going to lie, the black oppression lesson is a bit shoved down your throat, but you understand why they did. It isn't enough to ruin the movie or anything, but by the time the credits roll, you get it already and it might be a but strong for some. But, if you are looking for a powerful movie that takes a trip down a historical lane, then The Butler will not disappoint. I recommend this movie for fans of any of the actors featured in the movie, history fans, or fans of just serious movies in general.


I serve Lee Daniel's The Butler a 4 out of 5

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