by Matt McKenna
The Butler is based on the true story about an African American servant named Cecil Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker, who was born poor on a cotton farm who and later grew up to be a butler in the White House. In the film Gaines works for President Eisenhower, played briefly by Robin Williams, all the way through to Ronald Reagan, performed by Alan Rickman. Other well known actors play significant roles in the movie like Oprah Winfrey as Cecil’s wife, David Oyelowo as his eldest son Louis, and Cuba Gooding Jr. as another worker in the White House who is the comedic relief in the film.
What makes this movie so memorable is not just the performance given by the actors, but the historically accurate background on the clothes, buildings, people, and events. Particularly accurate details such as the Freedom Fighters, who only wish to integrate peacefully with white people are revoked and attacked are shown how they were assaulted horrifically.
Depiction of the violence escalates in the film with scenes of dogs, fire hoses, and lynchings on the peaceful protesters. Other events include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his attempts to resolve integration peacefully until his assassination, and John F. Kennedy’s belief in equal Rights, showed in his sympathies towards Cecil’s son, who kept getting arrested as being a part of the Freedom Fighters, and how he had a big effect on the American people before and after his assassination. The Butler also brought both sides of the Civil Rights Movement into perspective with Malcolm X, and the Black Panthers, a “political party” that tried to enforce integration with violence.
In the film we witness Cecil became popular among the servants and therefore the presidents would ask for his point of view on things. Cecil would be the one who would ask for a larger salary and promotions for all the African American staff though they never would receive them. Also shown is how his son Louis went from being arrested many times as peaceful protester, to a Black Panther, to then go onto college and receive a degree, and then become a member of Congress. It also shows how the two lived long enough to see Obama become the first African American president.
This movie is one of the best of the summer. The movie will make even make the strongest man cry and realize what people who wished for racial integration had to suffer back then in the graphic visuals. Lee Daniels has a definite shot in winning an Oscar award by reevaluating the Civil Rights Movement through a refreshing twist. The Butler stands as one of the best true stories brought to the silver screen this moviegoer has ever seen. People of this generation will feel the truth on what they have heard about the fight for Equal Rights for African Americans through the voice of a workingman. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.