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The Butler: Review

The Butler: Review

Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Vanessa Redgrave, Terrence Howard, Jane Fonda, Minka Kelly (Rated M – 132 min).

With more buzz than a beehive, another week, another possible Academy Award contender. Already a sleeper hit stateside, this sure-fire crowd pleaser is must-see alone for the galaxy of stars throughout a diverse cast.

Inspired by a true story originally written as a magazine article, ‘The Butler’ chronicles key moments in history as seen through the eyes of an unlikely White House confidant. Beginning in 1926 amongst a cotton farm plantation, slavery has been abolished but treatment of coloured people is still unacceptable. Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) is given an unlikely opportunity to learn house rules and interior settings by the property owner. Cecil moves away after a suggestion from peers, employed at a hotel in Washington DC, a twist of fate suddenly lands him in Capitol Hill working for President Eisenhower (Robin Williams). This is the start of a long association that Cecil has with various leaders of the free world becoming personally involved and touched by everything that happens. His wife and two sons join him on this life changing journey.

28 years since ‘The Color Purple’ showcased her acting ability, Oprah Winfrey provokes emotions on cue in a rare big screen performance as Gloria Gaines, the borderline alcoholic, cheating wife of Cecil. Defining moments in time between 1944 – 1982, racially charged events are the focus, however other issues such as the Vietnam war and JFK assassination is covered. Starting out in the retro classic ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’, his hulking frame but gentle wide eyed reactions, Forest Whitaker is flawless in a tailor made role for his remarkable talent. His second Oscar nomination is imminent.

Hollywood bends history into gloss like no one else, facts sensationalised and fabricated all in the name of entertainment works for this subversive film. Director of controversial films (Paperboy, Precious) Lee Daniels knows exactly when to ramp up the emotional music to gain audience reaction. Tear ducts are unlikely to remain dry. The script is all character building joy of essentially, the extraordinary life and times of a man wearing white gloves, serving tea. Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan, Minka Kelly as Jackie Onassis and James Marsden as John F. Kennedy are just some of the cool supporting cast. Singers Mariah Carey and  Lenny Kravitz also impress.

Shane A. Bassett.

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