Tuesday, 3 December 2013
The Butler (2013)
Tagline: One quiet voice can ignite a revolution
Cusack plays: FREAKIN Richard Nixon
I can't believe I had to wait until I was 30 years old to see Oprah and Cusack in the same film. Alas they share no screen time but Lee Daniels I thank you for bringing them (sort of) together on the silver screen.
The Butler (Or 'Lee Daniel's The Butler' for US audiences) uses the titular character to follow various Presidents through the White House and explore the societal changes that take place over the years they are in office. The character (Cecil Gaines) is loosely based on a black man whose story was revealed in a magazine article a few years ago. Some liberties are taken and details of his life changed to spice things up a tad and elevate the DRAMA.
And this is a drama and a half. From the Cecil's start in life as a black slave on a cotton plantation who is taught to serve, eventually ends up at 1600 Pennslyvania Avenue during Eisenhower's spell in office, and stays until Reagan's reign. During that time he is the silent observer to the national crises such as JFK's assassination and then goes home to a family struggling with it's own issues, for example his son's involvement in the civil rights movement.
It would be quite easy to slate this but it's more of an audience than critic pleaser. I've heard comparisons with Forrest Gump which are fair, but hey, I also like that film. The acting is of the highest calibre, particularly Oprah Winfrey as the Butler's wife.
There is also some light hearted relief from Lenny Kravitz and Cuba Gooding Junior as Cecil's colleagues and watching big names slathered in make up and prosethetics to play the President. Cusack is only on screen 3 or 4 times and I think it's fair to say he looks bugger all like tricky Dicky, but he does get a awesome giant fake nose. Alan Rickman as Reagan looks a bit like a melting waxwork model but Jane Fonda makes for a good Nancy.
Overall, I did enjoy this film. I wasn't quite caught up in sentimentality as much as other viewers judging by the sniffling and muffled sobs I heard towards the end. (The end has a massively crowd pleasing chuckle too). My only quibbles would be that Kravitz and Cuba Gooding Jnr seemed to work there even longer than Cecil Gaines as they were there when and he started and when he left - where's their recognition? Also poor old Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter are completely cut out.