Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: Lee Daniels' The Butler

Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo
Directed by: Lee Daniels
Language: English
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 132 minutes

I think some may think it's strange for me to be reviewing this movie, but I genuinely wanted to see it. I caught it on opening day with my mom and I feel this movie needs a full review.

Cecil Gaines grew up on a cotton field in Macon, Georgia as a slave with his parents. One day, his mother is taken away to the shed by one of their masters and when he leaves, Cecil's father confronts him and is killed in front of Cecil. After losing his parents, he is moved into the house and trained as a house servant. As time goes on, Cecil runs away and attempts to survive the outside world, but his hunger gets the best of him. He breaks into a hotel for food, gets caught, and begs for a job. There he is trained to be a butler.

I had a feeling this movie was going to be a potential Oscar contender just judging by the subject matter and the all star cast. I came into the movie with an open mind and I am very satisfied by the results.

The story has a nice balance of drama and comedy. It is both entertaining and informative. It could even be viewed as inspiring. The length was to be expected, but I felt the story moved along at a fairly good pace that I wasn't frequently checking my watch. For inspired events, they were close to the truth. The acting was superb and made the movie enjoyable. Everyone was at about the same level and were committed to their characters. I was pleased at the consistent transition of make-up for the actors, because the aging process is easy to mess up. *coughs*Temptation*coughs* Lastly, I loved the way it was shot and edited. There were some good juxtaposition moments such as Cecil preparing for a state dinner while his son was protesting at a lunch counter. I also enjoyed the usage of real historic footage. They were appropriately used and didn't take away from the world the audience is experiencing. Also, I would like to add that even though I know my history to a good extent, it still felt surprising or emotionally provoking such as John F. Kennedy's assassination or the buss attack in Birmingham.

Only flaw I noticed was some camera choices. There might be an unnecessary pan or zoom in places or there would be a cut from one person to another that felt awkward. Also I don't know if it was a filter or a focus issue, but there were scenes where the picture quality didn't match.

Before I conclude this review, I want to address some comments I read. First, the movie is simply inspired by true events. This is not a documentary! Things are going to be fictionalized for entertainment sake. Looking at the comparisons, they stayed pretty close to Eugene Allen's life as well as historical events in America. That's more than I can say for movies like The Blind Side. Second, this movie isn't just about being a butler or the civil rights. It is a combination of the two and how those events affect and develop the characters. Third, get over the name change! Some directors just want to be the only movie with certain titles. It has nothing to do with Lee Daniels being pretentious, arrogant, or anything.

Lee Daniels' The Butler is far from perfection, but I did enjoy it a lot. I might have skimmed over other flaws, but I believe the positives make up for them. The audience was amazing and very vocal throughout the movie, in a good way similar to The Purge. I will say that this movie isn't for everyone and I won't be surprised if younger audiences find it boring or too slow, but offered something that I think I can fairly compare Forrest Gump gave audiences years ago.

Rating: 4.5/5

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