Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
I was bored.

Sometimes, you just have to cave in and watch a hyped movie purely based off of the hype alone. Does that mean the movie will be any good? It could, but everyone’s taste differs. I, for one, am not a huge political guy, nor care for biopics. I can appreciate them like nothing else, but when it’s all said and done…count me out when asked if I’ll see it again. That was my exact reaction to Lincoln, and it’s also my reaction to Lee Daniels’ The Butler. I can see where the hype comes from, so I’ll try to tell you where my dissatisfaction comes from in return.

“The Butler” in question is an African American chap by the name of Cecil Gaines who grew up amidst segregation and civil rights at their worst. As a boy, he watched his mother get raped and go insane while his father was killed a few feet away. He moved north and began working for the white man, so he could provide security and stability for his new family. He was so good at his job of being a butler that the White House found him and put him on the White House staff to serve the president. Meanwhile, his son was inspired by the work of civil rights, and went to join the “freedom bus”, risking his life every day.

Like I said before, I am nowhere close to being a big political film enthusiast. I’ll also admit that when it came to social studies and history classes, I got quite a few F’s because all I have ever cared about since I was a boy…was movies, television, and radio. So no, I’ve never been good at stuff from the past, because I never thought I’d have to carry that knowledge into the real world, and so far…I haven’t for the most part. I just skimmed through the classes enough to pass, and here I am today. So in short, I’m probably not the best candidate to rate this film based on the facts.

However, films in general aren’t meant to educate. We leave those for schools and documentaries. Movies are made to entertain – primarily. That being said, everything that I saw seemed to be all there in terms of facts that I do know. My problem pretty much just laid in the entertainment division, because here is what I noticed. If there is an A-class actor out there that has proven their abilities to perform time and time again, they were probably in this film. As advertised, this is an all-star cast, but that has never meant anything to me…and usually means a movie is compensating.

Look, I’m not doubting their abilities to act. They are brilliant at their craft, and they do a great job here as well, no doubt about it. You won’t see me complaining about the acting here, just the casting. More than half the time, I can’t believe what I’m watching because the actors just don’t fit the characters in terms of appearance. James Marsden is not Kennedy, he might sound a little like him, but the look is completely wrong, same goes for practically every president. Also, why in the double hockey sticks is Nelsan Ellis Martin Luther King, Jr.?

The casting was made just to make an interesting name-littered movie poster and to make a could-be-awesome biopic into an ensemble drama that I personally consider boring. Who cares if someone is an unknown or an a-class actor? Both have proved themselves in the past, and if you’re going to pick someone playing a famous character in history, make sure you do everything right because you’re serious filmmakers. Not people who just easily cave into popularity.

Another problem I had with the film was trying to figure out what the plot really was. You can say elements, like – there was a butler and a revolutionary in the middle of the civil rights movement, but those are characters and setting. Where’s the plot. Maybe it’s a coming-of-age story…but that doesn’t feel right. I might be alone in this, but I just don’t like biopics for so many different reasons. They make me angry…but hey.

The Good:

Professionally speaking, the movie is practically gold. Several proven actors shine with their performances in this emotionally-ridden story. The central idea of viewing a story coming from the White House in the perspective of one of the servants is new and fresh.

The Bad:

Boring. Casting choice seems to be geared more for popularity than the real right choice for the iconic roles throughout history. I don’t really care for the story for the most part. I kinda care for the characters, but only by barely.

Memorable Quote:

Gloria Gaines: Everything you are and everything you have, is because of that butler.

One thought on “Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)

  1. Though it can go on long, Daniels always keeps this movie interesting, even at its most sentimental and melodramatic. Even then though, it kept me watching and never feeling like I was being preached at. Instead, I was just being told a story, and a very good one at that. Good review Dave.


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