“The Butler” is a wonderful movie in that it is a lot like real life. Life is quite often good and fulfilling, but not always pretty. Such is this movie. Kudos to the actors for being willing to forego the glamour, and let the characters be the main focus. For instance, after leaving the theater I remarked to a friend that I was under the impression that Mariah Carey had a role in the movie. When my friend pointed out the character that Mariah had played, I was surprised because I hadn’t even been aware that it was her. She played her role in such a way that the audience only saw her character’s plight.
As expected, Oprah Winfrey, Forrest Whitaker, and Terrance Howard turned in exceptional performances. The makeup artists worked magic in showing the effects of life in the faces of these characters as they aged. Oprah and Forrest were amazing in their portrayals of the subtle nuances of aging; from the slowing of their steps to the slightest turn of the head and tremor of the fingers. Actors David Oyelowo and Elijah Kelly as their sons were outstanding. They so accurately portrayed the deep love underlying the sibling spats and differences, that you felt like you were home at the kitchen table with your own family. And Cuba Gooding, Jr. is an incredible comedic actor. His timing is pitch perfect.
The movie was good, but the subject matter definitely hurt. It took you on a rollercoaster of emotions from pride at the tremendous courage of the characters, to dismay at knowing that people really faced such atrocities. The hurt hit home all the more due to director Lee Daniel’s use of actual news footage from the volatile civil rights struggle of the 1960’s. Courage is a good thing, but no human being should be called upon to prove it while staring down the dripping fangs of German shepherds; nor whilst being slammed into walls by torrents of water gushing from fire hoses. But survive they did and, amazingly, with their dignity intact.
“The Butler” is bittersweet, but I would definitely recommend seeing this movie. Though long forgiven, these instances of man’s inhumanity to man must never be forgotten in order to not be repeated. This movie is also delightfully entertaining. It has an almost Forrest Gump type of charm where we, the viewers, feel like we are being inserted, right along with the characters, into fascinating slices of history. The movie has numerous laugh-out-loud moments and occasions of downright joy. So bite the bullet and take the pain because like momma always told you, this medicine may not taste so good, but you will feel so much better afterwards.