head head head
Home Contact RSS Feed
Movie Review: Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Adam Frazier   |  @   |  

The Butler PosterLee Daniels’ The Butler
Director: Lee Daniels
Screenwriter: Danny Strong, Lee Daniels
Cast: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Terrence Howard, David Oyelowo, Robin Williams, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, John Cusack
The Weinstein Company
Rated PG-13 | 113 Minutes
Release Date: August 16, 2013

Directed by Lee Daniels (Precious), The Butler stars Academy Award-winner Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, a White House butler who serves eight U.S. presidents from 1952 to 1986. Over the course of 30 years, he witnesses “” and becomes involved in “” the political and social turmoil of the times.

Inspired by Wil Haygood‘s Washington Post article, Lee Daniels’ The Butler is based on the true story of White House butler Eugene Allen and his family, portrayed in the film by Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, and Elijah Kelley. The film also stars Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, and Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan.

The Butler feels like a Greatest Hits of Best Picture winners like Driving Miss Daisy, Forrest Gump, and The King’s Speech that borrows bits and pieces from similar films like The Help and Lee Daniels’ own 2009 film, Precious. Sentimental, melodramatic, and just a tad heavy-handed, Lee Daniels’ The Butler is run-of-the-mill Oscar bait, a period piece biopic that takes the audience on a crash course through American history, focusing on an underdog who interacts with historical figures and lives through all the things we read about in Social Studies class.

Forest Whitaker as The Butler

Not to say The Butler isn’t a good film – because it is – but you’ve seen this movie before, and you’ll see it again, because it’s the kind of Triumph in the Face of Ignorance and Adversityâ„¢ family drama that resonates with audiences (and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) – it’s like Remember the Titans but with tea pouring and table setting instead of football.

The film is filled with great performances, but like The Last King of Scotland, the only thing memorable about Lee Daniels’ movie is Forest Whitaker, who starts out as a house slave in the South before getting called up to D.C. to serve President Eisenhower. Things get complicated when the Civil Rights Movement picks up steam; his oldest son (Oyelowo) participates in sit-ins and marches alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. before joining the Black Panther Party while his youngest son, Charlie (Kelley), goes off to fight the war in Vietnam.

Then there’s Oprah Winfrey. It’s hard to separate Oprah the Actress from Oprah the TV Show Host but Winfrey delivers a fine performance as Gloria Gaines, Whitaker’s on-screen wife who has a brief dalliance with alcoholism (and Terrence Howard). This is Oprah’s best performance since The Color Purple, worthy of a Best Supporting Actress nomination – though she’ll have her work cut out for her going against Meryl Streep in August: Osage County.

Though it’s typical, Lee Daniels’ The Butler manages to be an emotionally affecting film; strong performances overcome an underwhelming script that, like the film’s protagonist, doesn’t want to rock the boat. While it is an earnest film filled with good intentions, The Butler is ultimately manipulative, melodramatic fluff – a Best Picture contender if there ever was one.


Follow Me on Twitter!

1 Comment »

  1. […] Click here for full review. […]

    Pingback by North Carolina Film Critics Association — August 27, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Previous Article
Next Article
You may have noticed that we're now AD FREE! Please support Geeks of Doom by using the Amazon Affiliate link above. All of our proceeds from the program go toward maintaining this site.
Geeks of Doom on Twitter Geeks of Doom on Facebook Geeks of Doom on Instagram Follow Geeks of Doom on Tumblr Geeks of Doom on YouTube Geeks of Doom Email Digest Geeks of Doom RSS Feed
The Drill Down Podcast TARDISblend Podcast Westworld Podcast
2022  ·   2021  ·   2020  ·   2019  ·   2018  ·   2017  ·   2016  ·   2015  ·   2014  ·   2013  ·   2012  ·   2011  ·   2010  ·   2009  ·   2008  ·   2007  ·   2006  ·   2005
Geeks of Doom is proudly powered by WordPress.

Students of the Unusual™ comic cover used with permission of 3BoysProductions
The Mercuri Bros.™ comic cover used with permission of Prodigal Son Press

Geeks of Doom is designed and maintained by our geeky webmaster
All original content copyright ©2005-2022 Geeks of Doom
All external content copyright of its respective owner, except where noted
Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under
a Creative Commons License.
About | Privacy Policy | Contact