Think of your most memorable teacher. Or your favorite professional athlete. Or one of your loved relatives. Think of all the times you’ve seen him or her.
Now imagine them starring in a movie.
Would you be able to enjoy the movie, and get lost in the story? Or would you always be seeing the teacher, the athlete, or the relative?
Forest Whitaker is Cecil Gaines, an African-American who begins his career as a White House butler in the 1950’s for President Eisenhower and retires three decades later during Reagan’s administration. Based on the true story of Eugene Allen, the movie used Gaines’ quiet dignity as a backdrop for the often turbulent civil rights struggles of our country. It’s fun to see famous actors playing the presidents!
Gaines’ two sons show the difficulties of being African-American in the 1950’s through 1990’s. His older son, Louis (David Oyelowo), carries the civil rights story for the audience by being involved with many of the protest activities of the time; a sit-in at an all-white diner, riding the Freedom Bus, meeting Dr Martin Luther King, attending a Black Panther’s meeting, running for congress. This is a very good way to make history real for the audience. Very well-done!
Oprah Winfrey plays Cecil’s wife Gloria. And that is the problem. You see, Oprah is a talented actress, but she is so well known for her talk show and her philanthropy and her magazine, that I found it impossible to forget her. Every scene she was in I saw Oprah. Oprah serving dinner for her family. Oprah dancing along to Soul Train. Oprah sitting on the front porch with the neighbors.
But don’t let that stop you from seeing the movie. It is well done and tells an important story that we must never forget.
- One quiet voice can ignite a revolution; a review of Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013) (werenotsorry.wordpress.com)
- How Black Churches Helped Fuel ‘The Butler’s’ Big Weekend (soulbrotherspeaks.com)
- Review: Lee Daniels’ The Butler (thefocusedfilmographer.com)
- Oprah Winfrey, Traditional ’60s Housewife? Only One Woman Could Make It Happen (stylenews.peoplestylewatch.com)