Review: Lee Daniels’ The Butler

butler_ver5Lee Daniel’s The Butler

  • Starring: Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Oprah Winfrey (The Color Purple), David Oyelowo (Lincoln) and more.
  • Directed by: Lee Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy and more)
  • Synopsis: “THE BUTLER, based on the screenplay by Danny Strong & Lee Daniels, is inspired by Wil Haygood’s Washington Post article about an African-American man who served as a butler (Whitaker) to eight Presidents in the White House for over thirty years. From this unique vantage point, THE BUTLER traces the dramatic changes that swept American society, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family.”
  • Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence and strong language including hatred and racial slurs.
  • Must-Watch Trailer:
  • Review:

Director Lee Daniels (Precious) invites you to take a memorable trip through time with Cecil Gaines, a man born in poverty and bred for Presidents. This film, based on the true story of White House butler Mr. Eugene Allen who served in the White House under eight different presidential administrations from Eisenhower to Reagan, touches on several testing issues of a nation and a man divided and determined. Serving through times of segregation, civil rights, civil unrest and more, Mr. Allen’s tale is told through this film that teaches the importance of history, humility and honor.

Hit the jump to continue reading my thoughts on The Butler, starring Forest Whitaker.

Mr. Eugene Allen- the inspiration for the character Cecil Gaines in The Butler.
Mr. Eugene Allen (1919-2010): the inspiration for the character Cecil Gaines in The Butler.


Films that are based on real-life people and situations often add in misplaced elements for sake of drama. While The Butler does utilize this tactic, it works well enough and strengthens the characters’ all around development. While The Butler is not the greatest story ever told it does contain some of the greatest performances by the cast in it.


Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) carries the film as Cecil Gaines with charm, charisma and weight, and is accompanied by Oprah Winfrey (who gives an Oscar-buzzworthy performance that is her best since 1998’s Beloved), David Oyelowo (pronounced “oh-yellow-oh”), Terrence Howard and more, including numerous semi-cameo performances by actors in roles as prominent historical personalities such as Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower and James Marsden as JFK.

Check out the impressive cast:butler_ver4

  • Forest Whitaker (Cecil Gaines)
  • Oprah Winfrey (Gloria Gaines)
  • David Oyelowo (Charlie Gaines)
  • Robin Williams (Dwight D. Eisenhower)
  • Alan Rickman (Ronald Reagan)
  • Jane Fonda (Nancy Reagan)
  • John Cusack (Richard Nixon)
  • Alex Pettyfer
  • Mariah Carey
  • Vanessa Redgrave
  • Terrence Howard
  • Cuba Gooding, Jr.
  • Lenny Kravitz
  • James Marsden (John F. Kennedy)
  • Minka Kelly (Jackie O)
  • Liev Schrieber (Lyndon B. Johnson)
  • …and more!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Part of the fun in the film is watching and realizing who is playing whom and how well they emulate their real-life counterparts.

In a style similar to Forrest Gump, The Butler incorporates actual footage of historical events that took place during the timespan of the film and thus adds to the, perhaps, nostalgia during the viewing experience.the butler

While viewers can take several morals from the story, Daniels tends to focus on the darker debated issues of America’s history ranging from racial inequality, foreign politics and war and does so powerfully and personally. At times the time-period usage of racially charged language in the film can be uncomfortable, but Daniels’ attempt at authentic representation is respectful.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Other elements of the film touch the very heart and soul and make the characters in the film become even more than that…they become real (which, for the most part, they were. It may surprise you to know that some of the characters, such as Cecil’s older son, were completely fictional, but that’s to be expected in a Hollywoodized drama. The creative liberties used were very complimentary to the strengthening of the messages of the film.)The Butler

The importance of one man, one father, one husband…one butler and his silent contribution to the formation of our country over three decades is now a tale not only known to those inside of the White House but to those throughout the entire world. This drama, loaded with tense confrontations and touching moments, touched me through its tale of troubles and triumph, but even more so through the performances of the stellar cast who answer the responsibility to present this tale of a lowly, yet laudable, butler in such a tremendous fashion. the-butler

After watching The Butler I tweeted:


An excellent set of performances that definitely moved me at times. You will laugh and smile, you may cry and frown. The characters make you a part of their world and transport you directly into their struggles all the way from the 1920’s to present day.  I would not be surprised if a few Oscar nominations came from this film. Perhaps not the movie itself, or its director, but Oprah, Forest Whitaker and David Oyelowo (who all played characters of varying ages) deserve some attention. ESPECIALLY Oprah. I was very much impressed. Go see The Butler and let it serve you and your heart well.movies-the-butler-poster

My Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars for The Butler.


(Remember, to read this review of mine and over 250 more, check out THE ARCHIVE of movies I have reviewed anytime. Know before you go…or rent…or buy!)


Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!

T, The Focused Filmographer

up next: Reviews for The White Sands International Film Festival and Trailer Time Thursday!


  1. I was waiting for this review to post.

    My sentiments exactly. Our review of this film is the same, with your being more eloquently written…lol. All the praises given to Oprah’s performance are definitely well deserved. She did that! Great Review my friend!


    • I will be by to read yours soon (sorry, been so busy with the film festival preparation/reviews). Thanks for “waiting for this review to post.” It’s humbling knowing someone is waiting to read something. Appreciate that.

      Yeah, Oprah really did a fantastic job here. Glad you thought so too. Thanks for the kind words.


  2. Great review T! I’m glad I packed a bunch of tissues before I saw this. There are some moments that are truly so heart-wrenching, it’s even worse that it actually happened!! Humans could be so cruel to one another, it pains my heart… though I didn’t grow up in the Civil Rights era, my country had a history of racism too between the natives and ethnic Chinese (my family would be considered the latter) so my mom have told me stories of being harassed, but not to THIS degree! Glad to see you put a photo of Mr. Eugene Allen here too, he’s an inspiration how he didn’t let his heart to be full of hate after all the darkness he’s experienced.


  3. Considering how preachy and melodramatic this movie could have been, I’m glad that Daniels took the high road and made it more of a touching, somewhat sweet story. Not perfect at all, but still very compelling and worth the watch, no matter who you are. Good review T.


  4. Great review. I had my doubts about the film, but think you have alleviated most of them. Don’t think this comes out here until Boxing Day or something crazy like that. So still have a while to wait.


  5. Great, great review Terrence. I don’t think I’ll catch this one in theatres, but I strongly suspect I’ll be watching it eventually. From your review and others, it sounds like it’s one of the first clear Oscar front-runners.


Psst!! Join in! Leave a Comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s