REVIEW: "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

Director Lee Daniels’ new film “The Butler” hits theaters nationwide today (August 16th) and critics are already mentioning it as a major contender for the Academy Awards.

Image placeholder title

“The Butler” doesn’t necessarily evoke the idea of a spirited action flick or comedic work – but fans of those genres will be pleasantly surprised to see Daniel maneuver both elements into his two hour film that focuses on the contrasting tales of the civil right movement through the eyes of a father and son.

“The Butler” focus on the heroic figure of Cecil Gaines (played by Forrest Whitiker), whose life story is the center of the film. He is the butler to seven presidents, beginning with President Eisenhower (Robin Williams) and ending with President Reagan (Alan Rickman), and his journey and struggle are his story line – from the plantation where his father died and he subsequently ran away, to his life’s work and the struggle at home with his wayward/prodigal son Louis (David Oyelowo) to his alcoholic and secretly cheating wife Gloria (Oprah Winfrey).

While the film does have it’s awkward moments and obvious overlooks, such as a talking parrot and historical inaccuracies, the film hits home with a moving story and narrative that screams Oscar nominations for Whitaker, Winfrey, Daniels and screenwriter Danny Strong.

Image placeholder title

Independently filmed and based on the real-life account of Eugene Allen, butler to seven presidents, Daniels and Strong manage to assemble a highly creative and emotional drama that offers an historical account of the tumultuous time during the civil right movement and its various leaders. Thankfully, the harsh reality of the era isn’t lightened of simplified, it’s real, gritty and unapologetic.

Overall the film finds ways to grip you even if you are not invested in the history lesson.

“You hear nothing. You see nothing. You only serve.”

And from this film, such lessons are apparent until the very end where the father and son – reconcile and progress is made through their eyes as they see the first black president.

MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 2 hours and 6 minutes.