When I found myself tearing up in the first scene, I knew the next two hours were going to be very long. I had a lump in my throat through out the entire movie and even those scenes that had the tears slowly rolling down my face did little to relieve that tight feeling in my throat
Lee Daniels‘ The Butler is “gut-wrenching and emotionally affecting” – that is the consensus from the web site, Rotten Tomatoes. Loosely based and inspired by A Butler Well-Served By This Election,, an article written by Wil Haygood for the Washington Post.
Here’s the GOOD: Oprah Winfrey gave a fine performance as the likable, edgy and often boozy wife and will probably receive an Oscar nomination. Forrest Whitaker in the starring role of Cecil Gaines is also an Oscar contender. When he looked at the camera and gave us the blank hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing and just serve look, you could never imagine him as the powerful and mad Idi Amin. The sight of the uber-liberal Jane Fonda decked out in Nancy Reagen-red had the audience laughing out loud. The casting of the “Presidents” was interesting; Robin Williams didn’t quite embody Eisenhower, Liev Schreiber isn’t tall enough to be Johnson and his Texan accent was questionable but I sure did enjoy his lines. James Marsden sounded more like Kennedy but was also short of stature and John Cusack was quite brilliant in his sinister shifty-eyed Nixon.
The BAD: The movie is NOT based on a true story. The real-life butler, Gene Allen, did not see his father murdered or his mother raped. He had only one son who served honorably in Vietnam and was not a Black Panther or involved in politics. Allen was born on a plantation in Virginia not in Georgia.
There has been considerable criticism regarding the movie’s portrayal of Ronald Reagan, particularly his position on apartheid in South Africa. There was no reference to the circumstances surrounding his non-action which had to do with the political climate of the day and the specter of yet another country falling to Communism.
If you are “of a certain age” as I am, then the chronological series of historical events was a trip down memory lane. The “events” marked the 34 years Gene Allen served eight Presidents. Unfortunately, we view these historical moments in Gumpian fashion through the eyes of a morally challenged hero rather than the mentally challenged Forrest.
THE UGLY; What was really ugly in this film? Racism is ugly, poverty is ugly, hunger is ugly, classicism is ugly. The true events were ugly because they really happened. Freedom Riders were killed, protestors were beaten and hosed down. College kids who sat in at the Woolworth’s counter were harassed, spit on and knocked down. That in my lifetime, there were still signs that said WHITE and COLORED is really ugly! Yes the truth is that the Ugly parts of this movie were all the true parts.
But that was then and this is now, and Barrack Hussein Obama is our President, who would have believed it?