Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Download Ex Machina
Before the DVD release on 8th June
Win Premiere Tickets
To see Mission: Impossible in Vienna.
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
TBC
Cast
Alan Rickman
David Oyelowo
Jane Fonda
Oprah Winfrey
Mariah Carey
John Cusack.
Directors
Screenwriters
Running Time
132 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Terminator Genisys
2 Star Empire Rating
Magic Mike XXL
2 Star Empire Rating
Dear White People
4 Star Empire Rating
Man With A Movie Camera
5 Star Empire Rating
Hot Pursuit
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Man With A Movie Camera
5 Star Empire Rating
Salt Of The Earth, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Song Of The Sea
5 Star Empire Rating
Look Of Silence, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Mad Max: Fury Road
5 Star Empire Rating

The Butler
White House Downton


submit to reddit


Plot
Three turbulent decades of American history, from the 1950s to the 1980s, are seen from the perspective of long-serving White House butler Cecil Gaines (Whitaker).


Review
The Butler

While this is literally two-plus hours of what-the-butler- saw, Lee Daniels’ follow-up to the divisive The Paperboy is far from antiquated end-of-the-pier smut. Instead, it’s an earnest attempt to humanise the tumultuous events of the post-War era by viewing them through the eyes of White House butler Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), who served eight administrations, from Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan, and bore witness to some of the most momentous political machinations of the 20th century. It’s hardly an original narrative device but it has dramatic potential, providing both fly-on-the-wall access to the corridors of power and an intimate view of the impact policy-making has on ordinary people’s lives.

Not that Gaines, a fictional character loosely based on real-life White House butler Eugene Allen, is an ordinary person. In fact, in his role as surrogate for the entire black American experience, he’s forced to take every nuance of socio-political upheaval on the chin. And it’s here the film gets bogged down. There’s no doubting Daniels’ and screenwriter Danny Strong’s sincerity, but they do lay it on with a trowel. Take, for instance, a scene where the young Gaines witnesses a redneck farmer rape his mother and then shoot his father in the head. It’s all a bit much. And although the film’s message is entirely principled, it smacks of self-importance and comes with a veneer of sentimentality that is unlikely to sit well with audiences outside the US.

On the plus side, Forest Whitaker delivers another superb performance as Gaines, investing him with a quiet dignity that counterbalances the film’s tendency to soapy melodrama. The supporting cast, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. Oprah Winfrey is terrific as Gaines’ wife Gloria, as is Liev Schreiber as Lyndon Johnson. John Cusack makes a game stab at Nixon, but Robin Williams as Eisenhower and Alan Rickman as Reagan fall squarely into the WTF? category. On balance, then, more worthy than an Edwardian strumpet cavorting in a hip bath. But not quite as much fun.


Verdict
Manipulative and preachy, The Butler is redeemed by a sensitive performance from Forest Whitaker and the undeniable power of the events it depicts.


Reviewed by Simon Braund

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Butler
Empire Star Rating

RE: quite liked it.

As the beating heart of this story about "a crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice", Whitaker is back on form. ... More

Posted by chang at 09:29, 31 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The Butler

Out of this current series of pre-Oscar contenders which start with “based/inspired by a true story, Lee Daniels’ latest is the one that truly screams “for your consideration” with a checklist that includes American history, racism, an all-star cast and even a trailer that plays out the sentimentality. After an array of bleak dramas such as Precious and The Paperboy, Daniels goes soft to please the mass audience. During the course of three decades as a butler for the White House, Cecil Gai... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 00:15, 06 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Was interested in this until I heard how much was made up...

The Butler, which sometimes resembles a black Forrest Gump meets The Remains Of The Day, is based on the life of Eugene Allen, who served as White House butler for over 30 years and eight presidents from the Truman to the Reagan administrations. Now let’s the bad out of the way first – the film invents and even distorts a great deal – for instance he never had a mother who was raped or a son who joined the Black Panthers. Obviously it was considered that the truth wasn’t dramatic enough and the... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 11:32, 21 November 2013 | Report This Post



CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
100 Greatest Movie Characters
Week 2 of your all-time favourite heroes and villains

10 Things To Look Out For At Comic-Con
Empire's look ahead to this week's big panels

Mirror Match: 10 Movies Where Your Evil Twin Attacks
A new challenger enters… and it’s YOU (but with bad facial hair)

Please Explain! With Arnold Schwarzenegger...
Plus Emilia Clarke on pranks, smiles and 'The Robot'

Bonfire Of The Vanities: When Personal Projects Go Wrong
15 hubristic horrors that went straight to movie jail

Hollywood Jackanory: Stars Reading Things Out Of Context
From Ian McKellen vs. One Direction to Hugh Jackman vs. baking innuendos

Before And After: How 10 Books Changed On Their Way To Becoming Movies
...And how their authors reacted

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month!

Subscribe and save 44%

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device

Subscribe and save 44%

Subscribe now and save up to 67%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)