The Butler follows the long life of Cecil Gaines, from his childhood growing up on the cotton plantations, to the turning point in his life that eventually lead him to become a White House butler, serving eight Presidents through some of America’s most tumultuous and defining years, playing a fly on the wall to the Kennedy Assassination, Watergate, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam and much more.
Forest Whitaker portrays most of Gaines’ life, after leaving the cotton fields and finding meaning in life. This quiet and humble servant stood as a silent witness quietly fighting for civil rights as his eldest son went against everything he believed in and proactively become involved in the struggle, getting beat up and spending much time in jail. Whitaker plays the role convincingly, acting as much with his eyes as the rest of his body, embodying the spirit of humbleness with uncanny ability. This coupled with some great aging makeup has created a story that draws you in as if you’re there alongside Gaines, living his life.
Coupled with some great supporting actors, my favorite being Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Ronald Reagan, The Butler is a mesmerising piece of American history.
As wonderful as the film is, however, it does have it’s failings, one being that whilst is starts off like a firecracker, it ends with a contrived whimper. Another failing being that it’s 132 minute runtime feels a lot longer, causing you to fear that you’re aging at the same rate as Whitaker’s character does and leading you to wonder if The Butler would have been better suited as a three part mini series on TV.
Rating: M Violence & offensive language.