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4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 8 January 2014
The Butler tells the true story of Cecil Gaines, a young man who runs away from a slave plantation in the 1920's and after a string of odd jobs ends up as a butler in the White House where he serves several American Presidents and witnesses several historic moments while his son gets caught up in the growing civil rights movement. Some superb performances here noteably from Forrest Whittaker giving one of his best performances as The Butler himself and Operah Winfrey giving her best performance ever as his loyal wife with excellent support from Terrance Howard and John Cusack, Robin Williams, James Marsden and Alan Rickman give good cameo appearances as presidents Nixon, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan respectively with Jane Fonda also appearing as Nancy Reagan. Yes it gets very sentimental but this is ultimately a powerfull piece of filmmaking from Lee Daniels the director of Precious.
22 comments117 of 122 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Typical exuberant American biopic based (very very loosely) on the life of Eugene Allen; you have a hard life in the cotton fields, the move north, the skills and rules of butlering, a son in the Freedom Riders and the Panthers another in Vietnam. It is a clever and effective moulding of a lot of the black experience in those years. A great opportunity for guest "presidents" and some real drama and tragedy. All lifting to the election of Obama. All the more effective for Forest Whitaker's skilful playing.
0Comment17 of 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 March 2014
I loved this movie, which brilliantly depicts the history of civil rights in the United States from the 1950s to the election of President Obama, through the eyes of a White House butler, played here superbly by Forest Whitaker, and his family. Oprah Winfrey is magnificent here as his wife

Mixing history with a moving family story this is a highly emotional movie, which charts the progress of the last 60-70 years alongside the life experience, triumphs and tragedies and the aging of the central characters.

Deeply moving, and utlimately uplifting, this is a great movie which I am sure I will watch again
0Comment46 of 50 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Real ambivalence watching this film, on the one hand a good review of Civil Rights and the country's march onwards. On the other hand, real dramatization of funerals, and the civil Rights Marches. There must be an in-between, but what we are offered is the extremes.

Forrest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, play a married couple, Clarence and Gloria Gaines. Clarence witnessed the death of his father being shot by a white man, who had just raped his mother in the cotton fields. Clarence worked his way up from the cotton fields to the Butler at the White House. He and Gloria had good times and bad, Clarence spent most of his time at the White House, leaving Gloria to bring up their two sons. One son became estranged after he decided protest was his way of life, and the other son went to Vietnam.

What we are presented with is the life of the Butler in the White House, the Presidents he served from Eisenhower to Reagan. The Civil Rights of Afro Americans were discussed in front of him, as if he was not there. That was his life. All in all, both Clarence, Gloria and their sons did their own thing. The fault Dear Ceasar, is the director, who gave us reality with a reality show. The two do not mix.

Wonderful performances by Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, but not Academy Award material. Lots of music that swelled and gave us moments of sadness, of course, I was all above that as I was weeping.

Recommended. 01-16-14
0Comment3 of 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 6 August 2014
An extremely interesting film with the storyline following major events in history.
0Comment8 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The film is adapted from 'Will Haywood's' 2008 Washington Post article,
a 'Butler' well served by this election.
Telling the real-life story of former 'White House' butler 'Eugene Allen'
In this film the butler is called 'Cecil Gaines' (Forest Whitaker)
It tells of his start in life working with his parents in the 'Cotton Fields'
At a, still young age he sets off to find his own way in life, finding it to be
as it was in the fields......he remains a second class citizen....he gradually
works his way up in life becoming a 'butler' eventually being offered a
position in the 'White House' as a butler, in all serving seven presidents.
Down the years he has learned to block out the prejudices that follow him
and his family down the years.
He brings up his family in 'Washington' with his wife 'Gloria' (Oprah Winfrey)
'Cecil' serves in the White-House at a time when...
The assassination of JFK a President who had spoke of change, and later the
killing of 'Martin Luther King' (civil-rights spokesman)
We see the violence of organisations such as the 'Klu Klux Klan' his son
joining civil rights movements whilst another son signs up to join the army
serving in 'Vietnam'
The rise of the 'Black Panther' movement in which his son becomes involved
in the late sixties.
The film had mixed reviews when released as it does with reviews on this site,
The story deals with race relations a subject that has never quite gone away
down the years, though progress has been made as the film portrays.
Today we have a 'Black' President in the 'White House' I suspect even the
civil rights activists of the 60's could never have envisaged this (having watched
this film I'm so glad that the Butler who had served so many down the years
lived to see it.
A moving and powerful film, often sad, occasionally heart warming, a well
portrayed drama with an outstanding performance from 'Forest Whitaker'
Because the film is often a little slow my first thoughts were to award 4/5 however
the film is better than that, in fact it is a story that had to be told.
22 comments40 of 44 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 16 February 2014
Fantastically acted and directed, it's moving and a perfect history lesson. Seriously powerful stuff. Would happily see again. Loved it.
0Comment28 of 31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 31 March 2014
the story of a black man who worked on a cotton plantation as a child in the 1920s.
where he heard his mother being raped and saw his father murdered.
a kindly old woman took him into the house to work as a servant.
then when he was a teenager she advised him to leave before he was killed.
from here time flies, he gets a job in a 5* hotel and is offered a position in the White House.
now it is 1957 and he is married with 2 teenage children and a Butler to President Eisenhower. Ike is trying to do something about the racist policies in the southern states. America has always had these problems dating back to before the civil war one hundred years earlier. successive administrations try and fail to solve the problems. the Butler carries on in his job while his son becomes an activist eventually joining the Black Panthers.
now it is the 80's and people are shouting free Nelson Mandela. South African apartheid is worse than in America, the Butler asks for equal pay for black employees.
next scene Obama is the new president, they have better wages and everything is hunky dory.
this is basically a fairy story, some wicked people and a happy ending. a a child friendly introduction to racism, look deeper into the problems and watch movies like Mississippi Burning for the true account.
0Comment1 of 1 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 2 September 2014
This was both fabulous and very sad at the same time. The acting was fabulous and the story too, but the sometimes sad content of the decisions made by some of the characters makes human beings look every bit as nasty and horrid as they appear to be be. On occasion though then a few great people shine through and give us some hope for our future.
0Comment7 of 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 15 October 2015
The other day I re-watched a movie for the second time, and this time I just had to write a movie review. I wasn’t going to before, when I first saw it. I don’t know why – maybe because I was tired and it was late at night, but this film was just so much more emotional the second time round. The movie in question is The Butler, 2013. It follows the life of Cecil Gaines, who grew up on a cotton farm and had the cruel acts of discrimination acted against him as a child. He runs away from the south in an attempt to create a better future for the family he is going to have. Somehow he manages to become a butler in the White House, and serves multiple presidents as the civil rights movement unfolds around him.

I think this film might mean so much to me because I kept thinking of the people who died for us (people like me) to be here in this house right now, receiving equal wages and walking freely on the streets and being able to feel safe. So many sacrificed their lives, had their families torn apart and suffered for the world to be what it is today. And that really digs deep.

What I admire so much about this movie is that although it runs through all the presidents and other historical events – like the KKK, The Black Panthers, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Vietnam war in detail, it also manages to show the culture. It goes through the times where disco comes into style, a bit of Michael Jackson, a bit of afros and dangly hoop earrings. The movie really goes through all the time periods with great costuming, music choice for background effect and… it just really goes all out.

One more amazing thing – this movie is loosely based on the true story of Eugene Allen. He worked at the white house for 34 years during the same time periods. His wife and him were invited to a state dinner, just as Cecil and his were in the movie, and so many other elements were included as well.

At the end of the movie I just felt like I had been on such emotional journey myself. When they announced Obama as president I felt like crying; I really I did. I applaud Oprah Winfrey for her final scene in the movie because it was perfect. The moment when she looked up as she reached for her purse touched me to the heart. They described elderly life just as I imagined it to be.

There is an age of a 16 on this film, but I really recommend it to anyone who wants to watch it. It’s one of those movies that really should be more well known. There are famous actors/actresses in it like Oprah Winfery, David Oyelowo, Alex Pettyfer, Cuba Gooding (Fighting Temptations), Lenny Kravitz (The Hunger Games, Cinna) and Robin Williams, amongst many others. The film was directed by Lee Daniels.
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