The Butler: What the Critics Say


Being in the UK and far too unimportant to be sent a copy of the film in advance, I am yet to see Lee Daniels’ highly anticipated drama about a White House butler. But luckily the internet is awash with reviews and opinions from those who have. Surprisingly, the film only has 5.7 rating on IMDB, but a 73% Rotten Tomatoes rating (and a 93% audience rating). In USA Today Caudia Puig thinks it “comes off as a serious minded Forrest Gump … but it’s also poignant, powerful and worth seeing“. Though making a similar comparison, John Anderson criticizes that “along with missing the movie’s ever-migrating point, viewers may be forgiven for wondering whether “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” might have been titled “Lee Daniels’ Forrest Gump” — its hero challenged morally rather than mentally, but watching history in Gumpian fashion, as a series of cameos viewed through a slightly clueless daze.” But like me you probably take critics’ reviews with a pinch of salt, so here are some reactions from around the WordPress universe…

Forest Whitaker is The Butler

Shamika Sanders, The Yolanda Adams Morning Show:

Within the two and a half hours it takes Daniels’ to tell the story of Eugene Allen through Forest Whitaker’s vessel as Cecil Gaines, you will go through an array of emotions, there are moments that command you to chuckle, scenes that require tissue and other times when you feel hatred filling in your gut. Told over the course of eight presidencies, through the eyes of the White House domestic, “The Butler” is charming most of the time and unbearable at others. … “The Butler” captivates you and holds you there because you’ve become so invested in the characters and chain of events led by tragic moments that rock you to the core. Of all the cast, Cecil Gaines was the most charming. A genuine warmth could be felt whenever he smiled, or extended his hand to shake another. Whitaker’s performance will earn him an Oscar nomination.”

Ron Porter’s Movie Review Weblog:

The Butler also takes us on a journey through the major events of the Civil Rights movement through the actions of Cecil’s son Lewis, who starts off as a lunch counter protester and ends up as a black panther and political activist.  It was interesting seeing the reality of the Civil Rights movment through Lewis Gaines as he journeyed through its various forms from non-violence to self defense,  but the method used to convey this reminded too much of Forrest Gump.”

God Watches Movies:

What really sustains the movie are the juxtaposed lives of butler Cecil and his activist son Louis (David Oyelowo). While Cecil is dressed in a tuxedo serving cookies to White House tourists, Louis is sparking the civil rights movement sitting at a lunch counter for whites only in Greensboro, North Carolina. The film continues this strategy of juxtaposition to tell the story of civil rights, black power, and even the resistance against South African apartheid alongside White House butlers, presidents and policymaking. And, surprisingly, it works to significant emotional power because it is grounded in Cecil and Louis’s polarizing father-son relationship. By depicting both roles of African-Americans in this country, the movie honors the courageous civil rights pioneers while still paying heed to and humanizing the black men and women who worked as help—even at the White House—without recognition or equal pay. Go see The Butler. It’s heartbreaking, inspiring, and essential American viewing.”

Andrew Gruttadaro, Hollywood Life:

The Butler’s ambitions may have been too grand, but you can still make something good while failing to make something great. So this era-spanning, Oscar-grabbing historical drama may be worth your time after all!

Sincerely, Jess:

Watching history through the eyes of The Butler was immaculate, and emotional. Beginning at cotton fields, daddy shot dead with no regard for his humanness, his manhood or his being. Mother driven mad…perhaps from going to her own other place one time too many after the habitual rapes, its hard to live all full of poison. From this beginning to Yes We Can. It was a journey that I watched in two hours but my grandmother lived, this piece of history was hers and…I couldn’t help but think of her as President Obama’s voice filled the theater.”

travistrimble’s Blog:

“Tonight, my girlfriend and I went to see The Butler. Overall it was a pretty decent movie. It had a good story, it talked about a black man who started with humble beginnings as a slave, and became the head butler for the White House. The timeline seriously made no sense to me. There was no proper way to explain the huge amount of time this man’s life covered. It is seemingly impossible to live for 153 years. Other than that great movie!

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