Reviewed by: Brian C. Johnson
Does the Bible condone slavery? Answer
What part should morality play in politics? Answer
Does character matter in political leaders? Answer
Civil Rights movement in the U.S.
Recommended film: Runaway Slave (2012)
drunkenness in the Bible
|Featuring:||Liev Schreiber … Lyndon B. Johnson
James Marsden … John F. Kennedy
Alex Pettyfer … Thomas Westfall
Alan Rickman … Ronald Reagan
John Cusack … Richard Nixon
Robin Williams … Dwight Eisenhower
Minka Kelly … Jackie Kennedy
Forest Whitaker … Cecil Gaines
Nelsan Ellis … Martin Luther King Jr.
Jesse Williams … Rev. James Lawson
Jane Fonda … Nancy Reagan
Terrence Howard … Howard
Vanessa Redgrave … Annabeth Westfall
Cuba Gooding Jr. … Carter Wilson
Lenny Kravitz … James Holloway
Oprah Winfrey … Gloria Gaines
Mariah Carey … Hattie Pearl
|Director:||Lee Daniels—“Precious,” “The Paperboy,” “Shadowboxer”|
|Producer:||Laura Ziskin Productions
Outpost Studios (ADR Post Production)
|Distributor:||The Weinstein Company|
“One quiet voice can ignite a revolution”
Martin Luther King, Jr. Rosa Parks. Malcolm X. All recognizable names that have echoed as significant characters in the American Civil Rights story. These people have been taught so frequently that we often forget that before they were “heroes,” they were ordinary citizens who grew tired of a way of life that denied all Americans their full participation in our democracy. Names like Viola Liuzzo, Joann Robinson, and Cecil Gaines are often left out of the record [readers are encouraged to look up these names]. Until now, the triumphant story of Mr. Gaines has been ignored; that is, until “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” was released this weekend.
Doomed by the color of his skin to a life of menial labor in the cotton fields of the American South, Cecil (Forest Whitaker) makes a living by serving as a valet and butler in some of the fanciest hotels and eateries. An opportunity comes his way to move to Washington, DC to become one of the butlers at the White House. For this young man who came from nothing, the chance to become one of servants to several of our nation’s presidents was no small deal. His commitment to excellence and his desire never to return to the past pains of his upbringing led Cecil to ignore the needs of his wife, Gloria (Oprah Winfrey), and his two sons, Charlie and Louis, who each struggled to respect their father’s choice of occupations amidst the changing tide of social unrest in America.
This is a story that needed to be told. In our historical record, we do not often get to see the unsung heroes who quietly worked to change our society, not through picketing or pulpits, but by being excellent and humble. I am often reminded of the thousands of unnamed citizens in Alabama who walked for over a year to drive the Montgomery bus system to its knees. These porters, maids, and laypeople gave up their creature comforts and braved the elements to change their society, but we only remember Parks and King. It was people like Cecil Gaines who made significant changes, just by being a servant. (Wow, there’s a Christian message right there!)
The film is not without challenge to Christian sensibility. There is some coarse language and some sexual content. Cecil’s friend, Howard (Oscar®-nominee Terrence Howard), is nothing sort of a letch, and his language is rife with sex talk and his extramarital affairs. There is no nudity (a true rarity these days). There are some scenes of violence—much of what we would see in documentary footage of the time period. Racial epithets are commonplace throughout the film. All these things, withstanding, the film is well done and one I would recommend for teens and adults.
Timely and important, “… The Butler” may become an instant classic. I wholeheartedly encourage you to go see it! Powerful!
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate to heavy—including “G*d-damn” (5), OMG, “Jesus Christ” (2), “Oh my Lord,” “Lord,” “hell” (3) / Sex/Nudity: Minor
External links of interest:
• “How True Is ‘The Butler’?”, Aisha Harris, Slate, Aug. 15, 2013.
• “‘Butler’: Reprocessing History With Feeling,” Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 15, 2013.
• “Fictional History in ‘Butler’ Belittles Civil Rights Progress,” Andrea Billups, NewsMax, Aug. 21, 2013.
• “Historian: Reagan Depicted Unfairly in ‘Butler’ Movie,” Bill Hoffmann and John Bachman, NewsMax, Aug. 16, 2013. • “A Butler Well Served by This Election,” Will Haygood, The Washington Post, November 7, 2008.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.