Reporting Julie Fisk
“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” stars Forest Whitaker as a man who worked as a White House Butler for 8 American Presidents. It’s based on the true story of Eugene Allen, who also worked for multiple Presidents during his career at the White House. The facts however, have been altered a great deal.
Now he has 2 sons who through their lives manage to experience almost every important moment from the violent slave days in the Deep South all the way to the election of Barack Obama. While the butler Cecil Gaines gets close to Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, his sons become Freedom Riders or fight the war in Vietnam. This gives the movie a “Forest Gump” vibe, which feels contrived at times.
“The Butler” is saved though by some fantastic performances. So many big stars turn up here, from Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey to Jane Fonda who, believe it or not plays a convincing Nancy Regan. Oprah Winfrey has so much fun playing Cecil’s wife. She’s just a hoot to watch. I especially enjoyed watching the actors who played the American Presidents. I don’t want to say who plays whom because figuring that out is part of the fun. I will say that my personal favorite was LBJ and you’ll see why.
The highlight of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” though is Forest Whitaker’s subtle yet compelling performance as Cecil Gaines. He is a man who has to keep his opinions to himself, but Whitaker quietly makes all of them clear. He’s the main reason I’m giving “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” a B+. In fact, this one just might earn Forest Whitaker another Oscar nomination.