Never in my lifetime did I think I would witness a person of color become the President of The United States. However, not only did I witness it once…but twice!!! I can only imagine how the subject of THE BUTLER “Cecil Gaines” must have felt having watched and listened in on some of the nation’s most private and intense conversations for decades beginning with President Dwight Eisenhower.
THE BUTLER serves its audience a smorgasbord of issues to peek in on from the turbulent father/son, husband/wife relationships to the complexities of the Civil Right Movement to the difficult, borderline stressful conversations overheard while serving Presidents over the decades. Overall, I wanted to see more about the man..Cecil Gaines. I felt like the details of his life were skimmed over to make room for the parade of stars portraying Presidents and First Lady’s, as well as, the revisiting of such momentous events as the March on Selma, Freedom Riders, etc… Don’t get me wrong, all of these events and historic figures are indeed a necessity. However, I just wanted more on Mr. Gaines.
The performances of Forest Whittaker and Oprah Winfrey should and deserve to recognized as exemplary work for each. Oprah as Gloria Gaines reminds one of that favorite Aunt, Cousin or Grandmother that you hold fondly in memory well after they’re gone. Her performance was well-rooted in reality and your heart breaks for her character on more than one occasion. Forest Whitaker, in the lead role of Cecil Gaines, reminds us of why we love him as an actor. He brings dignity, manliness and respect to his role and reminds us that all people in service should be treated with just that. Adrian Lenox as Gina is a scene stealer as is Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Carter Wilson and Lenny Kravitz as James Holloway. Yaya Alafia is brilliant as Carol Hammie, girlfriend to Louis Gaines (David Oyelowo).
Produced by the late Laura Ziskin and the Weinstein Company, THE BUTLER is a must see for all generations to serve as a reminder on how far we have come in America and yet how far we still have to travel. Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER opens nationwide on August 16th.