The struggles of racism in The Butler

Daniel Woodhouse

Race: America’s favorite controversial topic.

The Butler tells the tale of Cecil Gains, an African-American who starts out working in the cotton fields as a boy and works his way up to being a butler in the White House. The story takes place from 1926 to present day and spans multiple administrations. Cecil witnesses racial prejudice throughout history, all the while dealing with the stress his job puts on his family.

Director Lee Daniels does a great job of recreating both the plight of African-Americans during the Cold War era and the aesthetics of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Danny Strong has crafted a beautiful screenplay that touches honestly on racial issues and creates successful character arcs.

Forest Whitaker is amazing as Cecil Gains, a man torn between supporting the fires of revolution and protecting his family. Robin Williams (Eisenhower), James Marsden (JFK), Liev Schreiber (LBJ), John Cusack (Nixon) and Alan Rickman (Reagan), all do a wonderful job at nailing down the mannerisms of each President. The supporting cast is also pretty good, though I think casting Oprah was unnecessary.

The film has an excellent score that mixes well with brutal racial scenes that bring the audience to tears.

The Butler is an amazing film that does surprisingly well at condensing so many important recent American historical events in such a tightly written script.

5 out 5 stars