The Butler

One quiet voice can ignite a revolution.

132 min     7.4     2013     USA


A look at the life of Cecil Gaines who served eight presidents as the White House's head butler from 1952 to 1986, and had a unique front-row seat as political and racial history was made.


CinemaSerf wrote:
We begin with some brutality at the hands of a character (Alex Pettyfer) who believes that the negroes on their cotton plantation are, quite literally, worthless. He rapes a woman then murders her husband when he raises a very mild objection! His mother (Vanessa Redgrave) takes a liking to their now orphaned boy and promotes him from the fields to be their houseboy. Learning how to keep his head down and to play the game, he quickly succeeds and ends up working in the White House. His period there (ending in the Reagan administration) allows for an interesting conduit to depict the evolution of the American civil rights movement, of changing (and not) attitudes and it gives a little insight into how the Oval Office and it's occupants might work. The supporting cast list is impressive, but with the exception of Oprah Winfrey (his wife "Gloria") most have but fleeting appearances as the story moves along. Their own life is not without heartache and troubles - one of their sons is determined to do what he can to fight for their freedom from oppression, an activity done at considerable peril to him and those around him. The narrative also, gently, exposes discrimination across the board - from salaries and promotion opportunities, to segregated seating at a milk bar, as well as nodding, tragically, to the war in Vietnam. Perhaps it is the gentle way in which it illustrates the prevalent racism that is most potent. It allows us to evolve with him, sometimes slowly, sometimes shockingly and that is to the credit of Whitaker who exudes a decency that is hard not to admire. The production is well paced with a complimentary soundtrack that is well worth a look.