The Butler is a good movie. A good movie that tries to do way to much against a formula that has already been successfully done. There are so many stars and people packed into this movie, that I had to wonder if the director Lee Daniel’s sent a group text to everyone in his contact list.
Hey Everybody! This is Lee. I am making a movie kinda like Forrest Gump with the the timeline structure set against the Civil Rights movement. And what a list of people who responded to the text! Oprah, Terrance Howard, Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, and a host of others. While the acting is great, the one true standout and the man who carries the movie is Forest Whitaker. He play Cecil Gaines, a butler at the White House. He is present for eight presidents and the story is interwoven against real world events. The subtlety to his acting, whether it is a shrug of the shoulder, a slight movement of his eyes, or the movement of his body serve to show a master actor at the top of his craft.
Visually this movie is odd. While showing scenes of a shocking and upsetting nature, the look is stark and directly in your face. The director chooses to play a lot of the rest of the movie with a shadow and not a lot of light. In a movie heavy on conversation between it’s actors, there are times when there should be more light to see facial expressions.
But I really did enjoy The Butler overall. It gives a person just a sense, a glimmer, of that the issues and challenges faced by the African American community during the Civil Rights movement. However, it falls short of being a classic. Why? Because the movie really should have rotated and wound itself more around Forest Whitaker’s performance instead of trying to run multiple sub plots.
3 stars – A Hitting a Mark recommendation.