Among the events which have shaped our history, one that stands out the most was the Civil Rights Movement. However, whereas many films focus on the leaders and personalities associated with this, Lee Daniel's The Butler takes an entirely different approach. Set between the 1920's to 2008, this movie follows the story of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), a butler who served several presidents including Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson during the 34 years he was employed. As he struggles with his duties and remaining politically neutral, he must also contend with taking care of his wife (Oprah Winfrey) while struggling with his eldest son Louis (David Oyelowo), who is actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
Right from the beginning, this movie takes the audience in and doesn't let go until the end credits. Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey give spectacular performances and the casting of the presidents is excellent and very surprising (Robin Williams as Eisenhower and Alan Rickman as Reagan.....enough said). However, where this movie distinguishes itself among other Civil Rights stories is the evolution of both Cecil and Louis's views on the issue. This dichotomy provides a great deal of tension but serves as a growing point as the former attempts to resist as long as possible to provide for his family while the latter sees an opportunity to change the world. Frankly, this film is a definite must see and a very strong contender for the Oscars.
The Butler is rated PG-13 for some violent and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements, and smoking.