Opening in theatres tomorrow from director Lee Daniels, Lee Daniels Entertainment and The Weinstein Company comes the THE BUTLER.
This film tells the story of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker); a man who was raised on a cotton farm and after the death of his father is taken into the main house trained as a houseboy. When Cecil becomes a man realizes he must move on.
Into a world that he wasn’t prepared for, cold and hungry Cecil is taken in by Maynard (Clarence Willliams III) who continues his training. When someone who works with the President sees his life is about to change. Cecil Gaines will become one of the butlers of the White House along with Carter Wilson (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and James Holloway (Lenny Kravitz).
Making life better for wife Gloria (Orpah Winfrey) and his two songs Charlie (Isaac White) and Louis (David Oyelowo), Cecil becomes his job. When being good at your job something always suffers and it’s his family.
Four presidents and a changing tide in society bring him to the point where he must decide where the road will take him.
FINAL WORD: Whitaker as Gaines is perfectly straightforward, emotionally reeled in and insanely polite. You wouldn’t think it would be a problem with those characteristics but it is. I appreciate Whitaker’s portrayal but I wasn’t invested and the longer the film went along the less it was going to happen.
Winfrey as Gloria gets 5.2 seconds of acting in and the rest of the time she’s doing her best chain-smoking red nailed jezebel. Her character is also emotionally frozen as well that the brief flashes of hope that it may change just don’t happen either.
White as Charlie is the family comic relief and Oyelowo as Louis is the son carrying the fight for change. The problem here is that it seemed that he only wanted change and became a Freedom Rider, or Black Panther because of a woman he was trying to impress and that was disappointing.
Gooding and Kravitz as the other butlers seem to have moments of ‘stand up for yourself’ but never really do anything but continue the status quo. That being said it was nice to see both of these actors again.
Other cast include: David Banner as Earl Gaines, Mariah Carey as Hattie Pearl, Alex Pettyfer as Thomas Westerfall, Vanessa Redgrave as Annabeth Westfall, John P. Fertitta as Mr. Jenkins, Jim Gleason as R.D. Warner, Colman Domingo as Freddie Fallows, Adriane Lenox as Gina, Pernell Walker as Lorraine, James DuMont as Sherman Adams, Terrence Howard as Howard, Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Minka Kelly as Jacqueline Kennedy, Live Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, Colin Walker as John Ehrlichman, Alex Manette as Bob Halderman, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE BUTLER three tubs of popcorn out of five. Like the premise of the butler being ‘seen but not heard’ that’s basically what I thought of it all. How am I to care about this man if he is in a constant state of being emotionally frozen? However, the cinematography is completely beautiful, elegant, tasteful and a treat for the eye.
I am a huge John Cusak fan and cringed when Nixon walked on screen, Fonda couldn’t have looked any more Barbie-plastic if she tried and Schreiber as Johnson was horrifying to me. Look at the above “cast include” and you will see that it looks like a who’s who instead of a casting list for a film that needed acting in it! This really seems like a film full of cameos which takes away from what I’m sure is a book of substance. When I get time to read it I will.
Cramming one man, four presidents and Lafayette from TRUE BLOOD into this two-hour vision of history tells me one thing – look out award season as PC hits the red carpet. I’m sure this film tried to say something important but in the mush it gets muddled.
In the end – one quiet voice can ignite a revolution.
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