Lee Daniels' The Butler

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: -3

Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey head an all-star cast. Bio drama. Written by Danny Strong. Directed by Lee Daniels.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Inspired by a true story (which means a great deal has been added or changed, including the names of the lead character and his wife), the epic-sized film concerns an African-American who becomes a butler in the White House between the years of Dwight Eisenhower through Ronald Reaganís term. He eyewitnesses the turbulent eras when Civil Rights were fought for and eventually championed. Though facts are sometimes fudged, itís a revealing portrait of a time of struggling social awareness in Americaís development. Itís kind of a How The West Was Won for black equality.

As a boy, the lead sees his mom taken away to be raped, then his father shot to death. Soon after, heís taught to be a house servant (thatís not the term used in the movie). He excels in life as a knowledgeable manservant and is chosen to be a butler at the White House. There are subplots; his rebellious son becomes a Black Panther (not in real life), his alcoholic wife has an affair, etc., but each side story serves to develop the main story and character.

PREVIEW REVIEW: This is Hollywood storytelling at its finest. Though director Lee Daniels has added characters and scenes for the purpose of creating a thematic character arc, and to catch the sweep of the civil rights era, he has used these additions to capture the essence of both that time and the pictureís central theme.

Of course, it isnít a film merely seen from a pre-civil rights perspective, but also from a decidedly political one. Though Republicans arenít painted as evil carpetbaggers (with the exception of Richard Nixon), not even with Jane Fonda in a pop-culture kitschy cameo as Nancy Reagan (sheís actually pretty good at playing a gracious First Lady), itís the Democrats (and the Black Panthers) who are the true heroes. And for those who enjoy Barack Obama as President about as much as many did FDR in his day, they may hope the ending salute to the 44th President will be a brief spotlight. It is. But for me, that inclusion wasnít so much a salute to President Obama as it was an acknowledgement that justice for a wronged people has been won.

The entire cast delivers spot-on performances, the technical assists, from cinematography to musical score to set design, are each topnotch, and the filmmaker keeps the proceedings going at an involving, popcorn-munching pace. Admittedly, the opening scenes are a bit heavy-handed (did his mama get abused and his daddy killed in the same day Ė or at all?), causing us to squirm a bit, but they symbolically depict the enslaving of the body and soul of one people by another.

BTW: if you are wondering why the Republican Presidents and their wives are played by liberals such as Robin Williams as Eisenhower, John Cusack as Nixon and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan, the assumption must be made that it is nearly impossible to find a conservative actor in Hollywood. Thereís little regard for conservatives in that town. Ah, prejudice, it just keeps raising its ugly head.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Follow Through Productions

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Obscene language is used throughout; the N-word is also used throughout

Profanity: Around ten profane uses of Godís name or Christís.

Violence: Demonstrators are seen beaten on the news; a woman is led off to be raped; her husband is shot at point blank range in the head in front of his child.

Sex: Sex is more implied than seen; adultery is implied by the wife, but later she realizes what a good man she is married to and breaks off her affair.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: The leadís wife is an alcoholic, but eventually gives it up.

Other: None

Running Time: 132 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature teens and up

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