Monday, December 2, 2013

LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER

Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey,
Cuba Gooding, Jr, Lenny Kravitz, David Oyelowo

"One quiet voice can ignite a revolution"


First of all, let me just say, I don't know why the director Lee Daniels needed to put his name on the title of this film. In case, we forget who directed it?  I don't know, I just don't see the logic, really.

But having said that, I believe he did an excellent job in presenting the life story of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), the African American butler who worked for 8 US Presidents in the White House.

Beginning in the early 1920s as a young boy whose family is employed in a white household up to his elder years upon his retirement as a butler in the White House, "The Butler" is a clever depiction of the valuable service of one man to his nation.

The role is played brilliantly by Forest Whitaker, one of the most underrated actors of his generation.  His personification of a man who bore so much hatred (just because of the color of his skin) in his childhood then grows up to be a passive man who resists any form of confrontation is subdued yet expressive.

A witness of history as the American Civil Rights Movement gains momentum to the onslaught of the Vietnam War, he remains in the background (literally) as he serves the man in the highest office of the land.

I like how the film showed how some of the most powerful leaders of the free world would occasionally ask Cecil his input on events which unfolded in America during those tumultuous times.  And even though he is quite reluctant to share his opinions, somehow his 'comments' would bear some weight on the decisions made by these US Presidents.

But the different cameos roles of talented actors portraying these US Presidents was a bit distracting. You tend to focus on the physical similarities of the actors to the actual Presidents than the events which occurred during their tenure in office.  But I also understand the main essence of Lee Daniels in presenting these scenes, if only to show the audience how Cecil Gaines' opinions on current events were in some very small manner quite influential in the decision making processes of the Presidents.  

On the other hand, in his private spectrum Cecil faced a lot of resistance from his oldest son Louis (David Oyelowo) who defiantly joined the Civil Rights Movement.  The huge generation gap between the passive father who prefers to avoid conflict, and his son who cannot fathom the fact that his father is still so subservient is eloquently played out. Their scenes together make up some of the most poignant encounters in the film.

In conclusion, "The Butler" is a well acted, cleverly executed story of one man's struggle to uplift himself through harsh times. A story that transcends through various historical events and their significant impact in the life of Cecil Gaines. An ordinary man who endured and survived extraordinary times.

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