The Butler (PG-13)
Review by Jo Ellen Eisaman Co-Founder of The Movie Appreciation Club
Do I hear the resounding word - "Oscar?" Yes sir, I sure do. "The Butler" is about an uneducated African-American boy who works the cotton fields and pulls himself up by his overalls to become a butler in THE 'White House.' When his father is brutally murdered by the male owner of the plantation where the boy works, there is no cry of outrage. There is no jail sentence for the murderer. The murderer was white, the father was black. At that time in our history, this was totally acceptable behavior. The boy is taken into the main house of the plantation owners and taught to serve. By doing this and giving it everything he has, this boy makes something of himself.
There is a great deal of discussion on the political statements made in this film and the racism therein. I lived through these events and I can say that much of what is referred to in "The Butler" did, in fact, happen. This movie is about a time and a place where racism flourished and many are making it about slams to various presidents. One member of our club complained this film didn't touch on all the so-called faults of our current president. What is not realized by those touting this complaint is that the culmination of this film was that this man, through the span of his lifetime, lived through a culture that allowed and accepted murders of those of his skin color to his meeting one of his race who has become THE President of our United States. This is amazing when you realize how long most changes in society take.
The performance of Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, the butler, was Oscar worthy and as of this time, I cannot imagine anyone beating him out of that honor. He's earned it. Oprah Winfrey as Gloria, the butler's wife, also could easily be nominated. Played strongly by David Oyelowo, Louis, the butler's militant son who sacrificed so much to bring about this change was acted so well, I suspect he may also be a shoe-in for an Oscar.
Because some of the actors who were selected as the various presidents did not quite make the fit and because the film felt long, despite its rich fill, I gave this film an 8.5 out of a 10 and the club average was a 7.95.