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Archive for the ‘Cuba Gooding Junior’ Category

The Butler

26 Aug

The Butler – directed by Lee Daniels. A poor black farm boy becomes Butler to the White House during six Presidential occupancies concurrent with the Civil Rights movement. 132 minutes Color 2013.

★★★★★

What did those folks feel who did nothing during the Civil Rights years – which extended from The Eisenhower administration and still go on? What were those folks like? What did they go through?

I, a white man, was one of them, and so were a great many black folks. And this movie pays attention to those who were not on the firing lines, favored the black cause, but hung back. Rather than Cecil Gaines, the White House Butler, the true subject of this film is the sort of human he was: reserved, conservative, restrained, domestic, uxorious, responsible, honorable, hard-working, and unimaginative about and unsupportive of the racial revolution under his nose. Many black people were the same. They may have doubted or disbelieved or felt The Civil Rights Movement was not the way to go. They may have simply felt they were content with their lot or were lost in their own pleasures, work, and lives. They felt the movement was disrespectful and ill-mannered. They did not hold back the tide, but were carried along with it, and, in the end, had to acknowledge the accomplishments attained and still to be attained. The Presidents Cecil Gaines served all fall into this category as reluctant participants. They were ignorant of blacks. And to all of them, the Civil Rights Movement was an annoyance. It was supposed to be.

Cecil Gaines, who rose from the cotton fields to be the White House favorite, was reluctant also. Forest Whitaker plays this man with all his might, and his work is enforced by Oprah Winfrey, perfectly cast as his self-indulgent wife and the domestic tangle she and her son, played by David Oyelowo, in different ways, represent to Gaines. Coleman Domingo is brilliant as the White House matre d’ interviewing Gaines for his job. Clarence Williams III is grand as the man who first mentors him, as is Vanessa Redgrave, telling as the plantation owner who takes him into her house as a boy to learn to be a footman. Cuba Gooding Junior brings the character of a fellow butler and friend fully to life in every scene he plays. Various presidents are played by Robin Williams as Eisenhower, Liev Schreiber marvelously made up and played as Johnson, and Alan Rickman as Reagan. James Marsden has Kennedy down pat. But most amazing of all is John Cusack capturing psycho-physical screwiness of the rodent that was Richard Nixon.

The picture paints a strong picture of a part of the black world of that era – the world of the uncommitted or limitedly committed, that is to say, the majority. It balances and honors it. It puts before us ourselves as we were.

It is a rich entertainment indeed.

I was deeply influenced by seeing it.

 

 

 
 
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