Cary, NC – The Butler comes from director Lee Daniels, who previously helmed the Oscar winning film Precious, and tells the story of Cecil Gaines, a butler who served eight presidents in his time working at the White House.
It’s an incredible true story that is filled with many credible performances and an overwhelming need to entertain, yet can’t quite reach greatness due to an unshakable “TV movie of the week” feeling.
Whitaker & Winfrey Are Great
There are simply too many people to name in The Butler. Seriously, if I even tried to list them all I wouldn’t have enough room to finish this review, so I’m going to try and keep it focused here. Everyone in the film is solid, particularly the actors portraying our past presidents ( despite some iffy make-up jobs here and there ), but this is Forest Whitakers’ show all the way and he certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Oprah Winfrey is also extremely good in the movie, reminding everyone just how well she can act despite not appearing in a film for 15 years. In fact, their relationship is one of the best aspects of the movie, even though the film barely gets to dig in deep to their relationship.
Whitaker and Winfrey make you believe and root for this couple. Add to that numerous familiar faces to the rest of the cast, all of whom make at least somewhat of an impression, and it’s hard to fault the film for any casting or acting choices.
The Butler: Not Quite Oscar Worthy
The film’s real problems stem from its director, Lee Daniels.
The film moves along at a nice pace and despite the occasional heavy subject matter, Daniels lets the film breathe with some humor, all of which stems from sincere character development and never feels forced.
The problem though, is that when the film starts to cover any historical moment, such as the end of segregation or the attacking of freedom riders in the south, Daniels doesn’t quite know how to handle it. It’s in these moments that the film really turns the “TV movie of the week” feeling up to 11.
Also, despite the good cast and performances, the audience is never really given a reason as to many of the main characters’ problems with his family, such as a falling out with his oldest son and a brief struggle with his wife.
I realize it’s a true story and that’s how it probably happened in real life, but I feel the movie could have spent a little more time exploring those problems and letting us get to know these characters.
Flawed, But Still Worth The Price of Admission
Despite The Butler’s many flaws, I still found it to be an extremely entertaining film filled with good performances and a genuinely interesting true story to tell. And in the end, isn’t that alone worth the price of admission? I certainly think so.
Review by Jordan Hunt for CaryCitizen. Read more CaryCitizen Movie Reviews.