Film Review: The Butler

Very loosely based on the life of head butler Eugene Allen, The Butler is about a black man who served eight presidents over a span of 30 years in the White House.

The Film is narrated by Forest Whitaker who plays the title role, butler Cecil Gaines, recounting the things he saw and heard throughout his years in service as well as giving us a peek in to his contrasting home life.

Despite an all star cast including Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr. Terrence Howard and John Cusack to name a few, this film failed to deliver.

There was the potential for this to be a fresh perspective on the well documented racial relations of 20th Century America but unfortunately the stellar cast took away from the reality of the story rather than adding to it.

The Butler was supposed to be different because it’s from the eyes of an ‘invisible’ insider whose life is completely different to those that he serves. However, with no less than eight presidential administrations, Watergate, JFK, The Black Panthers, Freedom Riders, Vietnam and much more there was too much happening in not enough detail- it felt like we were listening to and age-old story coming from an old man who was beginning to forget what he was talking about.

Despite the film being over two hours long, going from 1926 all the way to 2008 was too long a time span to give any event any real significance. The audience has no chance of relating to Cecil Gaines or his wife Gloria (Winfrey) who struggled being married to a man whose mistress was his work. Or son Louis (David Oyelowo) who spends his time being at every major event in black history, fighting for the cause alongside Malcom X and co. in the South or other son Charlie (Elijah Kelley) who simply tries to have a normal and happy upbringing amongst the madness going on around him before going off to fight in Vietnam.

It seems this film concentrated on allowing every Hollywood actor from Alan Rickman to Robin Williams a chance to dress up and play at being one ‘Mr President’ or another  which took away from the real story.


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