Lee Daniels' The Butler is a presumptuous title. I think it should just be The Butler. Forest Whitaker (Gaines) as the butler is a modest man from humble beginnings. As a kid in the cotton fields in 1926, he sees his daddy gunned down for daring to argue with the white man who just raped the mother. Fortunately, the white property owner, Vanessa Redgrave, takes the young boy under her wing to be a house servant. He learns how to be invisible and serve, to speak properly, and "obey". Ultimately, he seeks his destiny up north and gets employment at a fancy hotel. He loves his job, and is noticed by the man who hires for the White House.
This is huge, and Mr.Gaines humbly takes the job and serves with dignity. As history unfolds from Eisenhower through Obama, the director, Daniel, contrasts service with unfolding civil rights unrest. He shows Gaines' son as he soon joins the Freedom Riders, the Black Panthers, and is jailed for his beliefs. He and his father tangle because the father was raised to respect and work hard to make a living. But Gaines also slowly realizes that despite hearing presidential decisions made on the blacks' behalf, there is still an underlying tone that lacks respect.
The movie is too long and should have been edited down. It's good and yet gets a bit preachy. There's a message and Daniels hits the viewer over the head with it. Forest Whitaker alone with a shake of the head, a sad or a conflicted glance shows us a man of dignity who endured and succeeded despite odds against him. Excellent acting and worthy of an Oscar nomination. Oprah plays his wife and she's a good actress. The folks playing the various presidents and wives are distracting and overacting in fake make-up. All in all, The Butler is about a real man who lived through a lot of change in his life. His story is worthwhile and does make one think.
Joanne Faries, originally from the Philadelphia area, lives in Texas with her husband Ray. She considers herself fortunate to be able to pursue a writing career after eons in the business world. Joanne enjoys reading and movies, and is the film critic for the Little Paper of San Saba.