Lee Daniel’s The Butler tells the story of a White House butler (Forest Whitaker) who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man's life and family.
This is a film with its heart in the right place, but talent in all the wrong places.
Having Oprah as the butler’s wife and actors like Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, John Cusack, James Marsden and Robin Williams play the presidents was incredibly distracting. Did I mention that Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey have key roles too? The Night of 100 Stars approach made this film very entertaining to watch, but it didn’t make this a good film. I never got emotionally invested in these characters.
In this film, nothing is subtle — including the images of each decade. It works in the first decade, but as the film wears on, it all gets very trivial. For example, desks in The White House literally have Rubik’s Cubes on them.
So why was half of the theater audience in tears? The creators were clever to include various heavy-handed gimmicks to manipulate audience emotion, but this also does not make it a good film.
Simply put: A light look at heavy history. I can’t recommend this as a film, but it’s an entertaining night out — and it’s hardly a bad plan to spend two hours reflecting on American history.
Award potential: Forest Gump, I mean, Forest Whitaker, winner of the Best Actor Oscar for The Last King of Scotland, carries this movie through decades of history and he will get a nomination for Best Actor. For the record, it is amazing that a celebrity of Oprah’s stature could transform to any other role 95% percent of the time. She is likely to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress, although I predict a snub.
The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.