Review: Lee Daniels’ “The Butler”

Witness the pivotal moments of the Civil Rights movement through the perspective of one of the most unique African-Americans in history in the latest motion picture from Academy Award nominated director Lee Daniels (“Precious”) titled, “The Butler.”

An all-star cast, led by Forest Whitaker, give power to Lee Daniels’ “The Butler”

Based on a true story and adapted for the screen by Danny Strong (“Bad Guys”), “The Butler” is centered on the life of Cecil Gaines, played by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland”), a White House butler who served under seven different Commanders-in-Chiefs from Dwight Eisenhower, played by Academy Award winner Robin Williams (“Good Will Hunting,” “Dead Poets Society”), to John F. Kennedy, played by James Marsden (“X-Men”), to Richard Nixon, played by Golden Globe nominee John Cusack (“High Fidelity”) to Ronald Reagan, played by Alan Rickman (“Die Hard,” “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”).

Gaines’ employment in the White House placed himself and his family on the front row of watching pivotal historical moments unfold. Gaines’ eldest son Louis, played by David Oyelowo (“Lincoln,” ” Jack Reacher”), became an activist for Civil Rights, initially as a Freedom Writer, then a member of the Black Panther party, he essentially rebelled against everything his father stands for.

Everything you are and everything you have, is because of that butler“-Oprah Winfrey as Gloria Gaines

Cecil, his wife Gloria, portrayed by Academy Award nominee Oprah Winfrey (“The Color Purple”), and his fellow White House butlers Carter, played by Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. (“A Few Good Men,” “Jerry Maguire”), and James, played by Lenny Kravitz (“The Hunger Games”) are witnesses to major events in African-American history and share a common impact on the events that helped shape this country to what it is today.

Gaines had a unique viewing seat on events ranging from desegregation, the Kennedy assassination, the death of Martin Luther King, the Vietnam war; by working at the White House, Cecil was on the ground floor to watch the world unfold on a grand scale.

Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” is nothing short of an extraordinary cinematic accomplishment and an outstanding tribute to the figures who played an important role in the Civil Rights movement. There is simply no way to begin and end on how many wonderful qualities “The Butler” possessed.

This movie begins with an eight year old Cecil Gaines, played by Michael Rainey Jr, who just saw his father get shot by slaveowner Thomas Westfall, played by Alex Pettyfer (“I Am Number Four”), and ends with the elderly Gaines witness history as Barack Obama was elected President in November 2008 and the story is beautifully crafted to showcase how far America has come, especially for African-Americans.

Lee Daniels’ direction for this motion picture is simply Oscar-worthy. His vision on the life and impact of Cecil Gaines is intelligently designed, emotionally diverse, and brings the rare and ideal quality of balance between entertaining and educationally valuable and the audience will savor and cherish this movie like a valuable gem.

Danny Strong’s screenplay is practically flawless. It takes audiences on an emotional roller-coaster ride; at times it angers, at times there are tears, at times there is laughter, at times there is thought-provoking material and the end result is a master-class success story about a man who has seen a lifetime long ascension for himself and his country.

Forrest Whitaker is absolutely brilliant as “The Butler”

Forest Whitaker’s performance will more than likely land himself at the forefront of every Best Actor category during Awards season. His portrayal of Cecil Gaines is one of silent but potent grace and the audience will applaud his performance by the film’s conclusion.

The supporting cast is entirely superb. Winfrey, Oweyolo, Gooding Jr. Kravitz, Williams, Cusack, Rickman, Pettyfer, Liev Schreiber (“Salt”), Academy Award winner Jane Fonda (“Coming Home”), Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard (“Hustle and Flow”), Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave (“Julia”), the entire cast is absolutely dynamite.

Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” is the Oscar-worthy motion picture audiences will expect it to be and more. This is a movie that is too good to miss.


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