Studio-Provided Plot Synopsis: Lee Daniels’ The Butler tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family. Forest Whitaker stars as the butler with Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, and many more. Academy Award nominated Lee Daniels (Precious) directs and co-wrote the script with Emmy Award winning Danny Strong (Game Change).
My Thoughts: The opening of the film suggests something more chaotic, but fortunately The Butler eventually settles into its tale of different approaches to the civil rights movement. Bouncing between the story of Cecil Gaines (Whitaker’s character) and his son Louis’ journeys from MLK to the Black Panthers show that it took several different methods to advance civil rights in this country. The main cast of Whitaker, David Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey do some excellent work here, though some of the presidential portrayals are more effective than others (I’m looking at you, Robin Williams).