My Review: Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Photo: Chris White

Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey star in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a film based on the amazingly true story of a butler who witnessed pinnacle moments in American history.

Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines – based on the real life butler, Eugene Allen. The opening scene shows a very young Cecil on a cotton plantation with his mother and father (played by Mariah Carey and David Banner, respectively).

Viewers get a taste of what life was like on the plantation when one of the white owners (Thomas Westfall, played by Alex Pettyfer) takes Cecil’s mother into a barn where and rapes her. Cecil’s father confronts him and is shot dead in cold blood right in front of Cecil and the other slaves. The matriarch of the home takes Cecil in to be a house servant, thus beginning his career as a butler.

The film continues to follow Cecil through his young adult years where he later takes a job at a ritzy hotel in Washington, D.C. His excellent work is noticed and he is offered a job at the White House.

Cecil worked in the White House for eight presidential terms – from Truman to Reagan – witnessing many historical events in U.S. racial history and the struggles for equality that ensued.

The film chronicles many events including the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the sit-in at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, N.C. and the March on Washington. Not to mention the violence and uproar that accompanied these trying times.

There are quite a few differences between the film and the story of the real butler, Eugene Allen. However, at its core, Lee Daniels’ version of this remarkable story is filled with life lessons and opens viewers’ eyes to the true volatility of this time in American history. The Butler is arguably the best “mainstream” film so far this year and definitely deserves Oscars talk.

I Give It A: B+

Check Out The Trailer Here

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: