Monday, September 23 2013, 08:11 PM MDT
Movie Review: Lee Daniel's The Butler
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Banner
Genre: Biography, Drama
Recommended To: Fans of The Help looking for a slightly stronger view into racism and the rise of the civil rights movement.
Synopsis: The rise of the civil rights movement acts as a backdrop to the story of Cecil Gaines’ (Forest Whitaker), a butler at the White House who served eight presidents.
Review: The Butler (the Lee Daniels’ part of the title was added following a dispute with Warner Bros.) is a strange film. Leaving the theater I was quite pleased with what I saw. I was thrilled by Oprah Winfrey’s performance and couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if she never established herself as a talk show host. I also enjoyed Forest Whitaker and thought the script and Lee Daniels’ direction did a nice job showing the horrors of racism more effectively than The Help or 42 while still keeping a PG-13 rating.
However, when I sat down to really think about the film I can’t deny that Danny Strong’s script is simply too unfocused. It runs its way through eight presidencies and decades of racial tension in a way that feels more like Forrest Gump, a work of fiction, rather than a story that is based on a real person’s life. Reducing historical figures and events into one-liners and silly gags works fine in a world that is at least partially a fantasy; it doesn’t hold up in a biopic where history is as important, if not more important, than the character caught in the middle of it.
The Butler is a good film; we were just led to believe that it was going to be a great one. Had the writing been more mindful of the big picture, rather than just the man carrying the polished silver tray, it could have reached its potential.
-Ryan Michael Painter