The Butler is a 2013 historical drama film directed and produced by Lee Daniels and starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, Robin Williams, David Oyelowo, and Elijah Kelley. The basic premise is that a black man lands a job as a butler at the White House during a good part of the 21st century.
As you can see, the cast of this movie is entirely perfect. You can't screw up a movie with both Alan Rickman and Robin Williams, can you? Both John Cusack and Oprah Winfrey? Hell, we even have the kid who played Zero in Holes with a minor speaking part. How can this possibly go wrong?
Well, you could make it a 2 hour snoozefest with little character development and wasted talent.
The beginning of the film is really solid and establishes Cecil Gaines (Whitaker) as a passionate butler who happens to be black. However, after he lands the job at the White House, Cecil's role shrinks in size. I get that we need to show events that happen in the time span of the entire film, but it really makes things that should feel important less and less significant.
The film, I feel, focuses a bit too much on the oldest son of Cecil, Louis (Oyelowo). It's a compelling subplot, what with the numerous people he gets involved in during the Civil Rights movement, but the movie might as well have been about him and him alone. And even though he gets a lot of screen time, I still don't care about him as much as I think I'm supposed to. Gloria (Winfrey) is Cecil's wife who is a dancing drunk and an overall waste of Oprah. And Charlie (Kelley) is kind of there until the movie needs to kill him off.
One of the things I like about the film is the amount of events in the 21st century are touched upon, especially in the Civil Rights era. The freedom riders, sit ins, the Black Panthers, Martin Luther King Jr., Bloody Sunday- all of these are touched upon. However, some of these are touched upon slightly and others go into great detail. It isn't very consistent. It's like the entire movie was mashed together to include everything that happened in the Civil Rights era, yet forgot to make us actually care about what the characters are thinking about.
A huge issue I have with the film is how everything feels wasted. For a brilliant cast like this, you'd think they'd all have their unique and important roles, right? Wrong. Each of the presidents- and there's fucking 7 presidents from the time Cecil gets the job to the time the climax roles around- have less than 3 minutes of screen time. Are you kidding me? Talented actors such as them are literally brushed aside to make room for more rushed bullshit? Am I supposed to care about this? I don't think so. The movie was over before I could.
Also no Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter. Yet Reagan (Rickman) is shown. What the fuck is this movie's issue?
Overall, The Butler is a good concept that was rushed and mashed together into a confusing, bloated, and mostly boring mess. If the film was broken up into multiple films, it would've allowed the cast room to shine and the crew room to breathe, but this was just an absolute failure. Would not recommend.
Overall Score: 25/100