Lee Daniels The Butler - Vique Rojas Flick Chick

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Lee Daniels’ The Butler: Powerful History Lesson

It’s hard not to be moved to tears watching “The Butler”.  The story about a child born into plantation slavery who eventually becomes a White House butler is a brief American history lesson as we see the evolution of our country through his weary eyes.  “The Butler” takes us through his life of service through eight presidencies highlighted by the tumultuous civil rights movement, assassinations and the controversial Viet Nam war.

Forest Whitaker as butler Cecil Gaines will surely be a frontrunner for a Best Actor Academy Award.  It is notable that his performance is so gentle and the opposite of his Oscar wining portrayal of evil dictator Edi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland”.    Oprah Winfrey as his wife is getting plenty of buzz for her performance and rightly so.  Though Whitaker’s character is the one thrust in dramatic situation after situation, Winfrey is the one who gets to display a wide range of emotions.

Winfrey and Whitaker are surrounded by a list of who’ who.  Keeping them good company are John Cusack as smarmy Richard Nixon, Jane Fonda as Nancy Regan, Cuba Gooding Jr. as a fellow White House Butler and James Marsden as young and evolving JFK just to name a few.  Archival footage of real events and people are interspersed throughout.  

It’s a big movie, covering a huge chunk of American history and perhaps that is the movie’s undoing.  The pacing is clunky and uneven but the story and performances keep you engaged and enraged.

Needless to say it is a very powerful drama, touted as being based on the true life story of Eugene Allen.  But a little research tells me that the similarities to Eugene Allen’s life and that of “The Butler” are slim to none.  When I found that out I was a little outraged to know that the entire story was fiction.  Yet I confess, there is great joy in knowing one human being did not have to endure that much injustice, drama and pain.  Well at least not the one human the movie was portraying.  Sadly, I have no doubt untold numbers of Americans of all colors have been enslaved, humiliated, slaughtered for being nothing more than themselves.

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” serves up 3&1/2 Red Vines for powerful storytelling

A preview of this movie was provided to me by the studio but it in no way affects my unbiased review.