Tuesday, June 4, 2013

** Update August 8th, 2013 **

I was able to watch the finished product at the world premiere in New York City recently.   The title has since changed from The Butler to Lee Daniel's The Butler.  What a difference between what I saw that day to what I saw back in May 2013.  A few scenes were moved around especially in the beginning of the film.  The score of the film really adds to certain key moments of the film.  Based on the finished product I would recommend this film.  Especially fans of American history as well as fans of Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, both of whom were fantastic.

Revised Rating: 3.0 Stars out of 5.0 Stars

My original review below...


I was able to watch an early screening of The Butler about a month ago.  The screening was of a early work in progress copy that had audio and video issues that still needed to be fixed by the studio.  My review is based on this knowledge and have adjusted the ratings according to this fact.

The Butler is a historical drama based on the life of Eugene Allen who was a butler for 8 different presidents spanning from 1952 to 1986 at the White House.  The lead role of Eugene or Cecil Gaines as the character is known in the movie is played by Forest Whitaker. Oprah Winfrey plays his wife Gloria Gaines.

In this movie we start off with Cecil Gaines as a child whose parents work on a plantation.  His life early on is challenged but is taken under the wing of the plantation owner's mother who teaches Cecil to be a house attendant as well how to read.  If you're looking for Mariah Carey in the movie, be sure not to blink and look carefully in the beginning, otherwise her character is easily forgettable and overlooked.

From the plantation, he runs away and has a chance encounter with a man that further trains him as a mentor.  Unfortunately I am not sure what the actor's name is but he is one of the standouts in the film.  From there Cecil slowly and sometimes quite humorously ascends to the role as a butler for the White House.

Through his eyes we see several historical situations such as Jacqueline's reaction to the death of her husband immediately after.  Or Richard Nixon played by John Cusack plying for votes and dealing with his impeachment.  But if you were to ask me to name two underlying themes of the movie, I would have to say it is racism and family.  We see how different presidents deal with segregation, Vietnam and the black power movement.  As well how Cecil's own son grows and learn during such times and how it strains the relationship between father and son, and husband and wife.  My favorite scene of the movie actually involves Cecil's son.  The intense scene was when Cecil's son and his girlfriend and fellow students enters a diner and stages a sit in.  The switches between them at the diner and them training for that type of situation brings forwards a lot of emotions.

I really would like to say I would recommend this film, but personally, I thought it was okay.  Some of the roles for President were eye raisers in Robin Williams and John Cusack.  Seeing them in their roles, I just can't picture them as  such.  The story is a bit on the long side.  Like 42, aside from the interesting environment and times that Jackie Robinson and Cecil Gaines lived in, the individual themselves were laid back good moral characters.  Those kind of characters you would love to have as friends, but does not necessarily make for interesting characters to make movies around.  Unless you're a really big fan of historical biopics or fans of the actors in the movies especially Oprah (who does a great job aside from the actor mentioned above).  I would wait for it on DVD or to hit Netflix.

The film is not rated at the time of this post and is out on August 16th, 2013.  The run time is 1 hour and 53 minutes.

Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 5.0 Stars.



  • Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines
  • Oprah Winfrey as Gloria Gaines
  • Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Carter Wilson
  • Terrence Howard as Howard
  • David Oyelowo as Louis Gaines
  • Vanessa Redgrave as Annabeth Westfall
  • Alex Pettyfer as Thomas Westfall
  • Mariah Carey as Hattie Pearl
  • Yaya DaCosta as Carol Hammie
  • Colman Domingo as Freddie Fallows
  • Aml Ameen as Young Cecil Gaines

Historical figures

  • Robin Williams as President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Melissa Leo as First Lady Mamie Eisenhower
  • James Marsden as President John F. Kennedy
  • Minka Kelly as First Lady Jackie Kennedy
  • Liev Schreiber as President Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Wanda Leigh as First Lady Lady Bird Johnson
  • John Cusack as President Richard Nixon
  • Alan Rickman as President Ronald Reagan
  • Jane Fonda as First Lady Nancy Reagan
  • Orlando Eric Street as President Barack Obama
  • Nelsan Ellis as Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Ray Gaspard as Senior Advisor Pat Buchanan
  • Alex Manette as White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman
  • Lenny Kravitz as James Holloway
  • Jesse Williams as civil rights activist James Lawson
  • Kay Smith as civil rights activist Diane Nash
  • Judith Wagner as the mayor of Lewisburg

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