Lee Daniels' The Butler - quick review

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Patrick Sun, Sep 8, 2013.

  1. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    Okay, don't even get me started on the pretentiousness of having the director's name in the film's title. Really?

    Forest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, a butler who finds his way into the White House as part of the wait staff through many presidents in the 1950s, starting with Eisenhower through to the 1990s. Throughout the decades, Cecil sees the Civil Right movement emerge through the politics of the times, getting a first-hand account of political interests and watching presidents struggle to keep a nation united in spite of the inequities all too apparent at play, while also having a elder son involved in the Civil Rights movement on the ground level. Oprah Winfrey plays Cecil's wife, David Oyelowo is the elder son Louis. Many historical bit parts of important political characters are played by many recognizable actors throughout the film. It almost becomes a drinking game of its own.

    Narratively speaking, it's pretty straight forward, but maybe a little too black-and-white in the shadings while showing the viewers the unrest and ugliness of race relations of the 1960s. As Cecil rises amongst the ranks of the wait staff in the White House throughout the decades of service, the internal strife of seeing how the fight for Civil Rights has exacted a personal toll through the story of his son, Louis, and also his younger son. And in the end, Cecil has to make his own stand against the status quo.

    I wanted to like it more, but the script just feels too pedantic at times to let the story flow organically.

    I give it 2.75 stars or a grade of B-.
     
  2. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
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    It was one of the solutions made available to the releasing company following the complaint from Warner Bros. that a long-forgotten film in their library, called The Butler, was being infringed upon by the new film, originally just called 'The Butler'. It was not their preferred title.

    See more here:
    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-07-22/a-butler-by-any-other-name-how-the-weinsteins-beat-warner-bros
     
  3. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    This was a great true story.. that unfortunately for dramatic effect was wildly changed and I think it hurt the merits of the film. It is not bad, but knowing how much is unreal that didn't need to be stings.

    C
     
  4. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    I once saw a one-man stage play that this movie is based on(dig far enough, you'll find it).

    As gripping as the one-man stage play is...this thing slides down hill so fast it doesn't even need Sliquid.
     
  5. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    Yeah, this one appears to really stretch the "based on a true story" credit. More like "vaguely related to a true story", from what I understand - very little fact in this fiction.

    And some WEIRD casting choices that just don't work!
     
  6. mattCR

    mattCR Executive Producer
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    To me the true story is a fantastic and moving one. I don't know if it would be film-drama like this is, but it's a very interesting view of the world. Time Magazine covered this well (with no politics, so no worries there)

    http://entertainment.time.com/2013/08/16/what-the-butler-really-saw/

    But Allen's story is a fascinating and interesting one, embellishing it to make it more interesting I think is a real disservice to the incredible job the man did in real life, and it causes the film to change history in a way that I think really hurts the effort it could have been.
     
  7. Robert Smith1

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    i would give 3 stars
     
  8. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    It was ok. Enjoyable and sometime moving. Strengths are civil rights story and classic generational conflict. Performance by Oprah and Whitaker are superb. Weakness is The Butler: his central story is boring and can't sustain a whole movie. its focus is fractured telling four stories, and apparently playing loose with the facts. Mildly recommended.
     

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