Movie of the Week: The Butler

By admin
01 November 2013

This movie tells the true, tragic story of an African- American boy working on a cotton plantation who witnesses the death of his father at the hands of a racist farmer.

Biopic. With Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and Robin Williams. Director: Lee Daniels. 13LVP. Opens 8 November.

Readers should know this is a long, difficult and slow movie aimed only at those who support film as an art form, or those interested in what happened to Eugene Allen, a White House butler who’s fictionalised as Cecil Gaines in this drama. It tells the true, tragic story of an African- American boy working on a cotton plantation who witnesses the death of his father at the hands of a racist farmer (Alex Pettyfer in an astonishingly brutal performance). Cecil ends

up in the farmer’s house where he’s taught to become a butler, eventually becoming personal butler to eight American presidents. This movie pays tribute to Cecil and provides glimpses into American history. It takes a respectful

look at his life, but certain things are problematic: the film is too long and wilfully slow, which lessens its impact. What’s more, director Lee Daniels’ re-creation of the various US presidents isn’t always accurate and some of their scenes seem random and fleeting. But what makes this a four-star film is Forest Whitaker’s intense, sympathetic performance as Cecil, and the scriptwriter’s meticulous research which blends every aspect of his life into a mosaic

of historical scenes that don’t stick to the timeline, yet for exactly this reason effectively highlight the irony in various situations.

Rating 4/5

- Leon van Nierop

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