Contrary to what some critics may say, Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” is quite possibly one of the most amazing and inspiring films I have seen. It features heartfelt performances from a cast overwhelmingly packed with a-listers; this drama is one you must see.
Based on the true story of Cecil Gains and his life experiences during a dramatic and provocative time in our nation’s history, “The Butler” tells the tale of a man whose life started as a slave working on a cotton farm and ended seeing Barack Obama elected as president of the United States.
Forest Whitaker gives an honest and moving performance as Gains, who serves as a White House butler for more than 30 years, spanning eight administrations. The film covers a number of major national, historical events including the civil rights movement, Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination and more.
With Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Live Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, John Cusack as Richard Nixon and Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, the film gives an insightful look into the personal relationships that Gains has with each president and how he, in his own way, serves to break down racial barriers.
The cast also includes Lenny Kravitz and Cuba Gooding Jr. as fellow butlers alongside Gains, who become an extended family and reveal inequality within the White House.
This multilayer film showcases not only Gains’ life as a butler, but also his struggle with family and the diverse politics of the era. With two sons, Louis played by David Oyelowo and Charlie played by Elijah Kelley—both on drastically different personal and political paths—the film features an in-depth look at how politics and radical views changed and divided families during these times.
In addition, “The Butler” is also a love story. Oprah Winfrey plays Gains’ wife, Gloria Gains, a woman tormented by her husband’s demanding job and the changing family dynamics throughout the years. And yet, while struggling with her own personal demons, stands by her husband.
Serious and heart wrenching at times, it may make you shed a tear, but it is sprinkled with humor and light-hearted moments as well that will leave you feeling uplifted.
Written by Danny Strong and directed by Lee Daniels, “The Butler” was released Aug. 16, 2013 and has grossed over $91.4 million at the box office so far. It’s rated PG-13 and although most critics are giving it three and a half stars, I rate it five out of five. It’s one you’ll want to see again.