The opening scene starts as an aged Cecil Gaines (Whittaker) reflects on his life through narrative; the moment where his greatest loss grants him his greatest opportunity.
Leaving the heavily segregated south, Cecil learned invaluable skills which led him all the way to Washington D.C. and later to the Oval Office. "The Butler" reveals inner workings of the White House through the course of the civil rights movement, while also showing the sacrifice that the early activists were apart off from the eyes of Cecil's son Louis (David Oyelowo).
The pressure of family life enhances the political backdrop to this film. As Cecil works his hardest to provide for his family, while keeping non-political as his job describes, the fight for civil rights still had its toll. Oprah Winfrey lends an Academy winning performance herself as a mother trying to keep her family at peace while battling her own liquid addiction.
Though the White House and family scenes are filed with incredible actors and important sequences, the real draw for this film is the countless undertakings we see as Louis Gaines gets involved in as a civil rights activist. Describing the evolution of Louis's passion, it drives him from sit-in participant, to Freedom Rider, all the way to the extreme of a Black Panther.
Anybody who is up on their American history will truly appreciate the subtle mentions of several of the historically significant movements against racism. Just in case you aren't don't worry just sit back, be inspired and be in awe of the bravery these activists displayed while being absolutely tormented and abused fighting for equality.
"The Butler" is not short on thought provoking quotes or comparative depictions; these moments were my personal highlights of this film. In one scene Cecil's sons differing beliefs are revealed in a statement describing how Louis has fought his country but Charlie wants to fight for it in Vietnam.
In its truest form "The Butler" acts as a civil rights overview reflecting the horror of racism and how recent these struggles occurred. Even though the environment of the world is depicted somewhat true the historical accuracy of the family's true story is substituted for Hollywood drama, hurting any emotional connection if you have read a background into the Washington Post story of Eugene Allen.
In personal summary of what was one of my most desired to watch films, I left in mixed emotions. On one side I was disinterested in some of the formal procedures of the film as it traveled through the decades so fast I didn't feel I could connect to just one moment. On the other side however I was inspired and disappointed, inspired in the courage displayed by the individuals who sought to change society and disappointed that I never paid enough attention before.
What I can say about this cultural film, even as I write it is that I was encouraged to learn more and research some of the great inspiring speakers of that time. History is our greatest teacher and even if this film was distracted of its true potential it delivered a lesson through passionate performances.
Boasting an incredible supporting cast such as Mariah Carey, Robin Williams, James Marsden and Cuba Gooding Jr. to name a few, "The Butler" gets its deserving attention with many of these stars able to carry a film themselves.
Lee Daniel's "The Butler" in cinemas October 31st.