I was among the fortunate chosen to attend ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’ movie screening in New York City last Friday, and let me just say, I was overwhelmed with emotion and delighted at how good this film was. If you haven’t had a chance to see Lee Daniels”The Butler’ please do so. The film is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, the real life butler, who worked in The White House for eight Presidential terms.
The film stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, ‘The Butler’, and his life story serving eight United States Presidents during a time of racial turmoil and division in American history.
The movie opens with a young Cecil Gaines witnessing his father (played by David Banner) being gunned down, in a cotton field, for confronting his white master after raping his wife (Cecil’s mother played by Mariah Carey).
Let’s be clear. The film is not a slave movie. Although we see much of what America had been like during the time of the Civil Rights Movement, this movie is about a man and his family and how those changes affected his life and theirs.
We see a father and a son divided much like that of a nation divided while amerced in racial tension. While Cecil’s early childhood taught him obedience in “the white man’s land”, his son, Louis Gaines (David Oyelowo), embodied everything he was afraid of — the radical evoking change.
It would take many years for the two men to see eye to eye. Despite the death of Cecil’s youngest child, Charlie Gaines (Elijah Kelley), the two couldn’t bring them together. What eventually did, discovering they were, perhaps, more alike than they thought.
But what makes this movie great? It isn’t just the emotions it propels but it’s comedic timing ; the balance between Cecil’s story, his family, and the change in American culture and politics.
And let us discuss the incomparable Oprah Winfrey who plays Cecil’s wife, Mrs. Gloria Gaines.
Did we forgot the media mogul was an actress? A good one at that.
Mrs. Gloria Gaines may have very well saved this film. The hip, sassy and troubled woman had many skeleton in her closet, but one thing was for sure, she loved her husband and she loved her kids.
Battling a drinking problem, Gloria carries on an extra marital affair with the couple’s neighbor Howard (Terrence Howard) when Cecil’s job keeps him away for long hours at a time.
The couple’s relationship proves to be a strong one, however, as they’re able to overcome their tribulations and move forward.
Upon taking his new job at the White House, Cecil also meet the men who would become more like brothers, Carter Wilson (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and James Holloway (Lenny Kravitz).
The two gentlemen created great comic relief and embodied a brotherhood and the support Cecil needed during his darkest hours.
The long list of cast and characters include Yaya DaCosta who plays Carol Hammie, Louis’ girlfriend, Robin Williams as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Liev Schreiber as President Lyndon B. Johnson. James Marsden as President John F. Kennedy, and Minka Kelly as First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, John Cusack as President Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, Jane Fonda as First Lady Nancy Reagan and Orlando Eric Street as Barack Obama.
Eugene Allen passed from a renal infection in 2010 at the age of 90 years old. The film was officially released on August 16th.