Jewish Journal

The Butler Film

by Joy Bennett

September 2, 2013 | 9:27 pm

The Butler film poster

Today we saw The Butler, directed by Lee Daniels (he also directed Precious, etc.).  It was excellent.  I've rarely been so emotionally affected by a film. 

Forest Whitaker is the Butler, and does an outstanding job, aging through his many decades of service.  The make-up and hair stylists did a terrific job with the effects of aging through the years, but it is Mr. Whitaker's skill himself that really carries the day.  It's no surprise, this gifted actor received an Oscar for his portrayal of the dictator Idi Amin, and  what range he has.  His incarnation of the Butler is gentle, strong, disciplined and uncannily spot on.   Jane Fonda is also excellent as Nancy Reagan. 

Oprah herself is one of the main characters as the Butler's wife, and here she is as we've never seen her before:  boozy, vulnerable, yearning for a husband who has been called away by the White House.  What wife could compete with that?  She also does a terrific job.

The film for me at least was often hard to watch, as the Civil Rights movement, Birmingham, the Freedom Fighters, and the formation of the Black Panther party were all unflinchingly portrayed.  The assassinations of two of our finest, Dr. Martin Luther King and President John F. Kennedy also play strongly in this film.  This era was one of our darkest hours as a country.  Look just how far we have come in race relations; yet how far we still have to go as a nation, and a world. A difficult, emotionally soaring, outstanding film, just perfect for this Labor Day Weekend.

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Joy Bennett is a writer living in Santa Monica, California.  She is the author of Under a Quarter Moon, a poetry and short story collection; and is a contributor to the...

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