Forest Whittaker as Cecil Gaines
Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower
Oprah Winfrey as Gloria Gaines
James Marsden as John F. Kennedy
Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Carter Wilson
Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson
Terrance Howard as Howard
John Cusack as Richard Nixon
David Oyelowo as Louis Gaines
Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan
In theaters August 16
As a boy in 1920s Georgia, Cecil Gaines was the son of black sharecroppers on a cotton plantation. He learned at at early age not to speak up to or question the authority of the White man. He learned this lesson by watching his father get shot dead in front of him because he dared speak up to the Master because the Master had raped his wife. From that point on Cecil made it a point not to make waves. After the death of his father the mistress of the plantation made him a house servant. In later years after he left the plantation, Cecil began employment at a luxury hotel, furthering his domestic skills. By the 1950s Cecil was serving in a posh salon in Washington DC. A place where movers and shakers came to drink and talk politics. It was one of those movers and shakers who recommended Cecil for a position at the White House as a butler. From 1952 to 1986 Cecil served as butler under eight presidential terms. His tenure covered the beginning and continued struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. From Dwight D. Eisenhower’s issuing of troops to Little Rock Arkansas to enforce desegregation, to JFK’s assassination and passage of the Civil Rights Act, to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and beyond.
Cecil balanced his job against his young family: a wife and two sons. The oldest of which, Louis who was coming of age, was not content with the way things were for Blacks in this country. Louis wanted things to change. He wanted to be a part of that change. Over the years, this caused a major rift between father and son. It took years for them to see eye to eye and that all they both wanted was to be able to be treated with dignity and equality. They just went about it in different ways.
The Butler is a stunning look at the state of civil rights in this country. Just how far we have come and just how far we still have to go. Even though some historians are trying to nitpick at the presentation of the story telling as “history porn”, don’t let that dissuade you from seeing it. This is a unyielding look at how the United States of America has treated African Americans for the last 60 years. This film will move you. This film will affect you. I challenge anyone not to be affected by this film. See this. If you can I urge you to take your younger peers and/or family members. This is a history lesson that needs to be shared through the generations.
This film boasts a laundry list of fine actors giving brilliant performances. I think everyone fit the bill except I wasn’t quite buying John Cusack as Nixon. The biggest surprises to me, were Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan (a little creepy), and Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette from True Blood) as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Run, do not walk, to see this film.
5 out of 5 stars.
Check out the trailer for “THE BUTLER” below: