“Lee Daniels The Butler” dishes out more than it can serve.
“Lee Daniels the Butler” features many hard hitting emotional themes of love, race, father and son bonding that make this film stand out.
The film was released in 2013 and follows the life of Cecil Gaines who begins life as a cotton picker in the fields with his mother and father. After watching his father get killed Cecil becomes a house servant and soon leaves the plantation. Cecil makes his way in life by being a servant and a butler where he finds himself one of the most beloved butlers in the White House. The film shows Cecil living through and serving eight Presidents in his life time an also shows how Cecil deals with his family and the civil rights movement.
The film features excellent performances by the cast that include Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Terrance Howard, James Marsden, John Cusack, and Alan Rickman.
The story is mainly a look into the Civil Rights movement and it’s history and the way African Americans and the Civil Rights movement were viewed and treated by white Americans and by the Presidents who were in charge of making sure peoples liberties and rights were guarded. The film shows this through the eyes and the life of the Gaines family.
Through the title and trailer of the film, it is led to believe that the main focus of the film is Cecil’s employment as a butler at the White House. Upon viewing the film; however, it is more evident that the story is more about the Civil Rights movement than anything else and Cecil and his employment is merely a sub plot that can easily be overlooked.
The acting and cinematography in the film is very well done. Each actor and actress do an exceptional job in their respective roles there are; however, a few important characters who do not seem to get the development that they need in the story. One of these characters being Gloria Gaines.
Gloria Gaines is the wife of Cecil and is played by Oprah Winfrey. Oprah does a great job playing the wife and motherly figure to the Gaines family and it is evident in the film that her character is the glue that holds the family together. I believe that Oprah captures the essence of this character very well; however, there is not a strong sense of development in the character.
In the film Gloria becomes an alcoholic to deal with the fact that Cecil is always away and that she is alone. Gloria also confides both mentally and physically in Terrance Howard’s character Howard.Although the film does show these two character flaws in Gloria there is never a resolution shown. The film makes it known that Gloria has stopped drinking and that she has stopped seeing Howard but it never goes into very much detail about these two subjects that are ultimately very important and potentially disastrous to the Gaines family.
The film as a whole is shot very well. It has great lighting and great camera angles and shots. It is never hard to tell what is happening and especially in the scenes with Louis and the Freedom Fighters the camera makes you feel as if you are really there with the characters (the bus scene with the KKK).
Personally I am not a huge fan of “Lee Daniels The Butler.” I thought the acting and cinematography were fantastic, but i felt that the plot and the character development fell flat.
The story is powerful and enlightening to the struggle of Civil Rights and the different views blacks and whites had about the Civil Rights movement. The filmmakers however tried to do way too much with the story. The film features about 3 or 4 main plot lines and because there are so many none of them ever seem to be adequately developed and the characters who are apart of those different story lines never seem to be developed.
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I feel like if the filmmakers focused more on 1 or 2 main story lines and focused on developing a few more of the characters then the film as a whole would be 10 times better.
The film has also seen some public backlash at its depiction of the man whom the story is very loosely based on and the Presidents who were featured in the film. Many people have spoken out about the unfair and untrue depiction of the Presidents and also the depiction of the real life White House butler. The only thing that the film keeps about the real life man is the fact that he was in fact a very successful and loved White House butler but almost everything else in the film is Hollywood dramatization.