Flash Movie Review: Lee Daniels’ The Butler

If you really want to learn something about the area you are in then talk to a local person. I discovered many hidden treasures this way when I traveled to new places. This is one of the reasons why I use public transportation when visiting a new city. With advice from local residents, I was able to experience the best pecan pie in Charleston, South Carolina and a wonderful BBQ meal in Dallas, Texas. In case you were wondering if I am only concerned about food when I travel, I do ask local residents about places that a guide book may not cover. One of my best trips took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota simply because of a woman who was standing next to me at a bus stop. She gave me some wonderful tidbits about local spots. When a story is being told by the person who lived through it, it allows us to relate to it on a personal level. This was a wonderful device that was used impressively in this dramatic film, inspired by a true story. Forest Whitaker (Phone Booth, Repo Men) played Cecil Gaines, a White House butler who served through eight different presidents’ terms of office. The viewer was a witness to numerous historical events, told through Cecil’s eyes. Aware the script took creative license with facts; this review is based on the movie’s entertainment value. Forest was outstanding as the stoic, quiet butler who took to heart the advice given to him on his first day of employment: The White House was not a place for politics. Oprah Winfrey (The Color Purple, Beloved) as Cecil’s wife Gloria, showed us she can be known as an actress who has a talk show. I was impressed with David Oyelowo (The King of Scotland, Lincoln) as Cecil’s increasingly militant son, Louis. The actors used to play the various presidents came across more like a stunt to me; the only convincing one was John Cusack (Martian Child, High Fidelity) as Richard Nixon. For their brief scenes I felt Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End, Blow-Up) as Annabeth Westfall and Jane Fonda (Nine to Five, Coming Home) as Nancy Reagan were the only ones who stood out. I thought the story’s flow was well done, despite several scenes being too syrupy for me. Strictly speaking on the entertainment factor, this movie provided a glimpse into historical events, using both drama and humor to tell the story. And what a story it told; my interest never waned. There were a couple of scenes where blood was shown.


3 1/4 stars

About moviejoltz

From a long line of movie afficionados, one brother was the #1 renter of movies in the country with Blockbuster, I am following in the same traditions that came before me. To balance out the long hours seated in dark movie theaters, I also teach yoga and cycling. For the past 3 years, I have correctly picked the major Oscar winners... so join me as we explore the wonder of movies and search for that perfect 4 star movie.

Posted on August 19, 2013, in Drama and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Thank you for this recommendation! 😉

  2. I am interested in this film, yet there always is that nagging sense that the characters playing historical characters I’m old enough to remember won’t be convincing in their roles.

    For example, Leonardo DiCaprio was NOT J. Edgar Hoover, though I could buy into him as Howard Hughes a bit more.

    Artistic license with historical events may make a credible movie, if lousy history, though I’ve never made it through an Oliver Stone film for that reason: are they history or a story? Stories presented a history?

    They are lies, beyond doubt, but the what people unfamiliar with the events will think actually happened. History isn’t served, and art has been turned into propaganda for the director’s agenda.

    I feel a bit better about “The Butler” after reading your review, but will try not to think of it as anything but an impression of White House life.

    • I understand where you are coming from. When it comes to people walking away, thinking everything was true; I hold out the hope that people will look up information before picking a side. Since movies are entertainment for me, if I sit through a movie without looking at my watch, it means I am being entertained. If you do go and see this film, I would be curious on your take of it.

  3. “…but what people unfamiliar…” Sorry. I wish editing after posting was possible.

  4. Keen to watch this, if just for the numerous stars playing famous people (Rickman as Reagan? Gotta see that). Not likely coming to a cinema near me, tho… will have to find this movie elsewhere.

    • What a bummer the film will not be showing by you. What is up with that?

      • All the local cinemas here are under the control of one company that distributes the movies around the country. There is a preference for the more common movies that appeal to the common denominator (Action Fans) and certain serious drama films just don’t turn up. They MAY show up much later as part of some film festival (usually coinciding with Awards season… as in February or March) or showcase screening but often not.
        A movie like this may simply be bypassed on the account that the local distributor may not be able to find a marketable angle. (It happens with certain films too, most disappointingly, Serenity).
        Just as a sampling, the movies scheduled to open in the coming weeks are Kick Ass 2 and Welcome To The Punch on Aug 29, Riddick, Grown Ups 2 and Empire State on Sep 5, The Internship, Closed Circuit and Vikingdom on Sep 12, 2 Guns and Prisoners on Sep 19, Rush and Runner, Runner will close out the month.

      • That is a bummer that there is no competition for the movie theater in your area. Have you considered moving? lol

  5. Looking forward to seeing tis film. And thanks for your recent visit to my blog.

  6. Great review. I’m hoping to see The Butler over this holiday weekend.

  7. Just watched an old National Geographic special on the White House (Clinton was prez) and they spotlighted this butler. I’m intrigued to see the movie now. Thanks!

  8. We watched this movie last night on Netflix, and I was eager to read your review to see if you liked it as much as we did. You did! 🙂

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