Movie Review: Lee Daniels’ The Butler – Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness


Written By: Justin Morales

Director: Lee Daniels
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Lenny Kravitz, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr

The year is 1925 and Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) is a happy slave child working in the cotton fields in Georgia. He’s oblivious to his surroundings because the only thing that matters to him is working next to his pa (David Banner) and ma (Mariah Carey). But that happiness is soon taken from him when his mother is raped by one of the slave owners and his father is shot for speaking up. Annabeth Westfall (Vanessa Redgrave), an older slave owner, sees what happens to Cecil and decides to take him off the fields and into the home as a house slave – also known as a butler. Cecil didn’t know it at the time but this would change his life for the better.

Years later Cecil fears he might have the same fate as his father and leaves the plantation with nothing except all the knowledge he’s gained of being a butler. Going days without eating, Cecil couldn’t bare the hunger any longer and breaks into a bakery and eats his heart away. If a white man would of caught Cecil that would of been his life but luckily for him an African American employee found him and offered Cecil a job as a butler in the same store he broke into. Teaching him new skills and fancy words, Cecil’s serving knowledge expanded and landed him a job as butler in a top notch hotel in Washington D.C. This is where he met his wife Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) whom he has two kids with.

Cecil wouldn’t stay in that hotel for long, to his surprise he became promoted as a butler in the White House. He began his career in the White House starting with President Dwight Eisenhower (Robin Williams) lasting all the way up to Ronald Reagan’s (Alan Rickman) term. While Cecil works in the White House, his eldest son Louis (David Oyelowo) fights in the Civil Rights movement, first as a Freedom Rider later becoming a member of the Black Panthers. Cecil didn’t know it but he will do more than serve his country as a butler for the White House but also help the same fight that his son is in.

This Blockbuster season was filled with action packed, high budgeted films and Lee Daniels’ The Butler gives us a break from all the explosions. The Butler touches on a lot of important historic moments in the Civil Rights movement but we also get to see the movement in the different viewpoint, through the experience of a father of a son who is apart of the movement. Cecil, who doesn’t follow politics much, mostly because he can’t due to his job in the White House but also because he works his behind off to get his family as far as possible from the south; doesn’t support his son’s actions. This causes tension and bitterness inside the Gaines household but this doesn’t stop Louis from partaking in the Civil Rights movement.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler will have your eyes water and have your soul laugh throughout the film making it one of the top dramas of the year. My problem with the film is that Lee Daniels could of played with our emotion more than he did. The first scene of the film was Cecil losing his parents and yet the emotional reactions wasn’t as intense as it could of have been. Don’t get me wrong, no one wants to go to the movies and cry their eyes out but with the subjects this film covers a little more tears would do everyone some justice.

Overall, I highly recommend all going to see Lee Daniels’ The Butler. This film is more about the star studded cast but about learning that the fight is not yet over in our country. You get a break from all the action and comedy movies of the summer and get to watch a movie that will touch the hearts of all.

What The Delio?: 8.5/10

Eugene Allen – the real Cecil Gaines