This could have been a great film.One for the annals of cinematography.It has all the ingredients required to keep the viewer riveted in his seat.The oppression of the blacks(sorry,but I do not use the -ludicrous-"politically correct" term african-american,any more than I use the term Caucasian,especially since I heard it used on TV to describe a Nigerian and a Brasilian footballer !!!) in the States,political activism,the White House over several presidents,and a superb cast.Forest Whitaker's performance as the butler,Cecil Gaines,is outstanding,and,surprisingly so,Oprah is good.There is also a small army of stars playing minor parts,and all of them,with the exception of the totally miscast Cusack as Nixon,are excellent.
So what is missing ? Why is this just a good film,no more than that ?
Well,in my humble opinion,this is because there is no definitive direction in this movie.Instead of using the life of a White House butler as a canvas where the political history of the U.S. over the last six decades could be painted , the film remains "undecided".Too much time is ,literally,wasted in the domestic affairs of the butler ( I suspect because this was the only way Oprah would get to be on sreen a lot of time...)and a lot less in the portrayals of "White House Dramas"than one would expect.Big mistake.Then ,of all the presidents that we "meet"in the movie,ranging from indifferent (Kennedy)to scum(Nixon),the Reagan couple are portrayed as the proverbial "Saints".God forbid ! And please,do not tell me this is because the 'butler' wrote so.The 'butler'did not make this movie.Hollywood did.
All in all I believe that the movie lacks inspiration,lacks soul.It tries to balance evenly the "family values"and the "socio-political"aspects.And it never really succeeds,to its detriment.
It "could have been a contender" for Uncle Oscar's statuette.As it is,it shouldn't.