From the cotton fields of 1920s Georgia to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election, this epic drama charts nine decades of African-American history as witnessed by Forest Whitaker’s dutiful White House butler Cecil Gaines and his family.
For the most part, The Butler is as worthy and earnest as its hero – and a far cry from director Lee Daniels’ highly lurid previous films, Precious and The Paperboy – with Whitaker understandably relegated to a passive role as a variety of famous faces pop up sporting disconcerting hairpieces and prosthetic noses to play his bosses, including Robin Williams (Eisenhower), John Cusack (Nixon) and Alan Rickman (Reagan).
When Cecil goes home to his family the drama turns soapy as neglected wife Oprah Winfrey hits the booze and succumbs to neighbour Terrence Howard’s advances. But some of the scenes where Cecil’s activist son (David Oyelowo) throws himself into the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s – interspersed with shocking archive footage – have a gut-wrenching impact that makes the struggle to overcome bigotry and oppression heartrendingly real.
Certificate 12. Runtime 132 mins. Director Lee Daniels.
Released on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 10th March by Entertainment in Video.
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