The Butler—Produced and directed by Lee Daniels/ starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Jane Fonda (and a host of others)/ written by Danny Strong from an article “A Butler Well Served by This Election,” written by Wil Haygood/2hrs 12 mins/ rated PG-13
Bifocal Review written by Ageless1der Barbara Rich & The Other Guy
(BR) This is based on a true story (and character) about a butler who served 30 years in the White House, starting with the Eisenhower administration through the Reagan years with a star-studded cast supporting some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Academy Award winners, Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey are surrounded by other Oscar winners and nominees, telling the tale of Cecil Gaines, the butler in question (played by Whitaker) and his wife (Gloria) played by Oprah Winfrey. Cecil struggles with the fact that he has a pride in his position of service, while at the same time the black community is struggling for civil rights and basic equality. I hate to repeat myself, but I feel the same way about this movie as I did about Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. The supporting actors, indeed did their jobs in support of Forest Whitaker, but make no mistake he is the central driving force of this film, in more than the title implies. His diverse skill as an actor (after portraying dictator Idi Amin, for instance) surely makes him a candidate for an already crowded award season. I give this film three and a half binoculars.
(OG) I was born in the early fifties, when The Butler’s main character first started to work for the White House, so maybe that’s why I felt a deep connection to this film and was very moved by it, almost to tears at points. I felt this was the most honest depiction of the Civil Rights struggles this country has faced that has ever been portrayed in film. It pulls no punches and comes from the perspective of those Americans who have been mostly affected by prejudice, discrimination, inequality, and ignorance: the African American community who were not considered human by a large segment of our white population, even after the Civil War had long since, supposedly settled the question. The film presents a broad and balanced view of Black America, as every human is complex and beautiful, and doesn’t try to disguise this complexity by “white washing” it. The complexity, the struggles, the pain and the triumphs are all from the perspective of those who have been so long oppressed, and to such a degree that many literally cannot understand. I give this film four binoculars. Why not? I know I won’t have to compare this movie to any other.
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