Film Review: The Butler

I honestly think there will be a lot of people who go to see the Butler expecting a heart warming tale of one man’s career. A career spent serving Mr President. And a plot that takes you on a journey through the political landscape of 21st Century America as viewed from within the White House, but by a set of eyes unable to comment, influence or affect anything that happens.

Instead you get met with a story essentially evolving around the civil rights movement in the United States and one man’s journey from picking white cotton on a farm as a boy to working in a white house as a man simply to provide for his family.

Intertwine with this the back story of a family that don’t see his simplistic “keep your head down” approach to life and survival as any way to live and you end up with a story, which unfortunately, gets lost totally in mid Atlantic translation. I am sure that if you live in America, or have a real connection to the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and the struggles, fights and wars that ensued that this film will provide the stimulus needed to keep you hooked. But for me, sadly, I just felt too English, too young and therefore, too disconnected from the plot and the emotions it was trying to convey to feel fall into the film and enjoy it.

It doesn’t help as well that some of the casting, especially that of the American presidents, is beyond a joke. Firstly, you don’t need famous actors to play famous people. Robin Williams doesn’t need to play Eisenhower, John Cusack will forever be John Cusack and not Richard Nixon, no matter how many ridiculous prosthetic noses you stick to his face and Lenny Kravitz, unfortunately, grabs The Hunger Games so brilliantly as the overly camp but serious fashion designer Cinna, that when you come from watching that, to them see him attempting a straight down the line portrayal in this, your mind kind can’t help but wander.

However, all is not lost! Oprah Winfrey. Yes the lady who made a fortune by giving out a lot of cars on a chat show; puts in a performance that essentially steals the show. Her performance as the wife and mother, torn from loyalties to love, support and provide is at times breath taking, others heart wrenching and certainly throughout, arguably the brightest of very few shining lights contained within.

She has her moments when she risks unraveling but never quite seems to fall apart. Whether through luck or Lee Daniel’s directing, she manages to always keep her balance but as with all the famous names cast in this film, she is and forever will be Oprah Winfrey. I don’t think her performance deserves anything more than a nod and a smile from the awards season but a nod it certainly does deserve.

Overall, I left feeling disappointed that the movie, which as an idea had so much to give and would should be an interesting, and enjoyable story had missed the mark with me so much that it had left me feeling cold. I wouldn’t say don’t see The Butler, just make sure when you rent it on DVD you get it as part of a 2-1 offer.

I wouldn’t pay full price.

4 out of 10 stars (4 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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