Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lee Daniels "The Butler": Review

Poster of Lee Daniels' The Butler

I had the pleasure to have private screening of "The Butler" before it hit the big screen last weekend. The movie was remarkable in the area of story telling. Lee Daniels took you through history class in detail depict of what it was like for main character Cecil Gaines. Cecil serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man's life, family, and American society.

I will not tell you the whole movie due to you really need to go see the film yourself, but I will give you the plot of the movie.
Cecil Gaines, a young boy, is raised by his subservient parents on a Georgia cotton plantation in the 1920s. One day, the farm's temperamental owner, Thomas Westfall rapes Cecil's mother, Hattie Pearl. Cecil's father, Earl, confronts him and is shot. Cecil is taken in by Annabeth Westfall, the estate's caretaker, who reassigns Cecil to being a house servant instead. As he grows older, he leaves the Westfall plantation and his mother who has been mute since the incident. One night, Cecil breaks into a pastry shop and is hired by the owners. During that occupation, he learns how to work at the establishment from master servant Maynard. In 1957, Maynard recommends Cecil to be a servant in Washington D.C. which Cecil gladly accepts. Ultimately, he is hired by the White House during Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration, where he witnesses Eisenhower's attempts to racially integrate a high school in Little Rock in 1954. White House maître d' Freddie Fallows shows Cecil the grounds and introduces him to head butler Carter Wilson and co-worker James Holloway.
Cecil eventually marries Gloria, who had been a maid at the same hotel, and they have two children: Louis and Charlie. The Gaines family celebrates Cecil's new occupation with their closest friends and neighbors, Howard and Gina. Louis, the eldest son, becomes a first generation university student at Fisk University in Tennessee. Cecil is hesitant about this because he thinks the South is too volatile and tells Louis enroll in another university. Louis joins a student program at Fisk to peacefully engage in a sit-in at segregated public places and is arrested. Furious, Cecil heads to Nashville where he confronts Louis for disobeying him. Gloria, feeling isolated from her husband, has an affair with the Gaines' neighbor, Howard.
In 1961, after John F. Kennedy's election, Louis and a dozen others are attacked by the Ku Klux Klan while traveling on the freedom riders bus. Cecil is informed of the incident by Kennedy, who subsequently delivers a national address proposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several months after the speech, Kennedy is assassinated and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, enacts the transformative legislation into law. As a goodwill gesture, Kennedy's widow Jacqueline presents Cecil with one of the former president's neckties.
In the 1970s, several years after civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.'s (Nelsan Ellis) assassination, Louis returns home and tells his family that he and a few others have founded a radical organization called the Black Panthers. Aware of Richard Nixon's (John Cusack) plans to suppress the movement and upset at his son's actions, Cecil orders Louis and his girlfriend, Carol, to leave his house. The Gaines' other son, Charlie, confides to Louis that he plans to join American forces in the war in Vietnam, to which Louis admits that he wouldn't attend his funeral if he were to be killed. Indeed, a few months later, the Gaines family hold a funeral for Charlie, which Louis does not attend, much to the dismay of his enraged father. Meanwhile, Cecil's professional reputation has grown to the point that in the 1980s, he is invited by Ronald and Nancy Reagan as a guest to a state dinner. Cecil realizes that the invitation was just for show, as Reagan plans to veto any Congressional sanctions against South Africa.
Gloria, wanting Cecil to mend his estranged relationship with Louis, reveals to him that Louis once told her that he loved and respected them both. Realizing his son's actions as heroic rather than antagonistic, Cecil quits his job and joins Louis in a protest against South African apartheid.
The film then advances to Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, during which an elderly Gloria dies, shortly before Obama is elected as the nation's first African-American president, a milestone which leaves Cecil and Louis in awe. The film ends with Cecil preparing to meet the inaugurated Obama in the White House.

I will say that Oprah performance was good as heck and she really needs to do more films. My favorite supporting actors in the film will be David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding, Jr(funny) and (fine) Lenny Kravitz. And even though Mariah Carey did not speak in the film she did a really a great job as well. I gave all the actor a A's across the board.

Here are some pics that I took doing the screening

 After the film aired for the private screening the audience loved it as well as I did. And after the host introduce special guest the audience went crazy. Lee Daniels and Forrest Whitaker walked to the front to do  Q&A .Everyone was excited due to Forrest being in the building to answer detail questions about his role.  The Q&A was great with fab questions being asked by many film students from local colleges. 

Over all I will give the film A+


Cast (in credits order)
Forest Whitaker ... Cecil Gaines
David Banner ... Earl Gaines
Michael Rainey Jr. ... Cecil Gaines (8)
LaJessie Smith ... Abraham
Mariah Carey ... Hattie Pearl
Alex Pettyfer ... Thomas Westfall
Vanessa Redgrave ... Annabeth Westfall
Aml Ameen ... Cecil Gaines (15)
Clarence Williams III ... Maynard
John P. Fertitta ... Mr. Jenkins (as John Fertitta)
Jim Gleason ... R.D. Warner
Oprah Winfrey ... Gloria Gaines
Isaac White ... Charlie Gaines (10)
David Oyelowo ... Louis Gaines
Joe Chrest ... White Usher
Colman Domingo ... Freddie Fallows
Adriane Lenox ... Gina
Terrence Howard ... Howard
Tyson Ford ... Elroy
Cuba Gooding Jr. ... Carter Wilson
Lenny Kravitz ... James Holloway
Pernell Walker ... Lorraine
James DuMont ... Sherman Adams
Robert Aberdeen ... Herbert Brownell
Robin Williams ... Dwight D. Eisenhower
John Cusack ... Richard Nixon
Olivia Washington ... Olivia
Yaya Alafia ... Carol Hammie
Jesse Williams ... James Lawson
Margaret M. Owens ... Woolworth Diner Patron #1
Eric Ducote ... Woolworth Diner Patron #2
James Marsden ... John F. Kennedy
Minka Kelly ... Jacqueline Kennedy
Chloe Barach ... Caroline Kennedy
Danny Strong ... Freedom Bus Journalist
Clara Hopkins Daniels ... Freedom Bus Rider
Elijah Kelley ... Charlie Gaines (15-18)
Liev Schreiber ... Lyndon B. Johnson
Dana Gourrier ... Helen Holloway
Shirley Pugh ... Malcolm X Goer
Bill Newman ... Pastor
Nelsan Ellis ... Martin Luther King Jr.
Colin Walker ... John Ehrlichman
Alex Manette ... Bob Haldeman
Mo McRae ... Eldridge Hudgins
Alan Rickman ... Ronald Reagan
Jane Fonda ... Nancy Reagan
Rusty Robertson ... Senator Robertson
Nealla Gordon ... Senator Kassebaum
Stephen Rider ... Admiral Rochon
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Melissa Leo ... Mamie Eisenhower
John L. Armijo ... Eisenhowers Military Adviser (uncredited)
Jon Arthur ... BET Videographer (uncredited)
Rex Baker ... Protester (uncredited)
Joshua Braud ... Josh (uncredited)
Blake Burt ... Protester (uncredited)
Carroll Burt ... Man at Water Fountain (uncredited)
Jonathan Aaron Butler ... College Student (uncredited)
Tom Cain ... Arresting Officer (uncredited)
Edward J. Clare ... Two Star General (uncredited)
Markeith Coleman ... Prisoner (uncredited)
Ross P. Cook ... Embassy Protester (uncredited)
Duane Cothren ... Military Social Aide (uncredited)
Haylie Creppel ... White House Child (uncredited)
Steven J. Daniels ... Protestor (uncredited)
Justin Edward Davis ... Pool Teenager (uncredited)
Donna Duplantier ... Barbara Gaines (uncredited)
Adrienne Esteen ... Protestor (uncredited)
Guy Fernandez ... Black Panther (uncredited)
Justin Gant ... Diner Attacker (uncredited)
Ray Gaspard ... Pat Buchanan (uncredited)
Tyler Gibbs ... Jim counter mgr (uncredited)
Russell M. Haeuser ... Redneck Bar Patron (uncredited)
A. Michelle Harleston ... D.C. Bus Station Passengers Parent (uncredited)
Sadarias Harrell ... DC Bus Rider / Prisoner / Rioter (uncredited)
Rodney Hebert ... White House Engineer (uncredited)
Donna Hubbs ... 1930's Lady Served Martini (uncredited)
Rahsaana Ison ... Woman in Waiting Room (uncredited)
David Jensen ... MacGeorge Bundy (uncredited)
Jim Johnson ... Eisenhower Dinner Guest (uncredited)
Mark Joyce ... Barfly (uncredited)
Elton LeBlanc ... Admiral, US Navy (uncredited)
Wanda Leigh ... Lady Bird Johnson (uncredited)
Sam Malone ... Young Abraham (uncredited)
John R Mangus ... Mississippi Jail Guard (uncredited)
Starlette Miariaunii ... College Student (uncredited)
Dorian Morrison ... Rioter (uncredited)
Mary Katherine Oglesby ... White House Child (uncredited)
Monicah Owino ... Church Congregation Member (uncredited)
Darryl Perrilloux ... Washington DC Rioter (uncredited)
Renato Powell ... Kitchen Chef (uncredited)
Philippe Radelet ... Houseman (uncredited)
Tarra Riggs ... Sophie Wilson (uncredited)
Xosha Roquemore ... Foxy (uncredited)
Corrina Roshea ... White House Guest (uncredited)
Aaron Saxton ... Prison Guard (uncredited)
Carl Singleton ... White House Butler (uncredited)
Chaz Smith ... Reagan Reception Attendee (uncredited)
Kay Smith ... Diane Nash (uncredited)
Jim Sojka ... White House Engineer (uncredited)
Marco St. John ... Chief Justice Warren Burger (uncredited)
Jason Stanly ... Reagan Marine Color Guard (uncredited)
Valerie Strecker ... Excelsior Hotel Guest (uncredited)
Orlando Eric Street ... President Barack Obama (uncredited)
Craig Tate ... Hobo (uncredited)
Shirley Tregre ... Mob Woman (uncredited)
Joseph Uzzell ... Angry Mob Member (uncredited)
Bob Walker ... JFK VIP Friend (uncredited)
Dean J. West ... White House Reporter (uncredited)
Michael Whitener ... (uncredited)
Jake Wynne-Wilson ... Reagan's Body Man (uncredited)

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