Never…never….never….ever…believe that a movie will be accurate or even close to being accurate when the titles on the movie screen boldly reads “Based on a True Story.”
For example, 2012 Best Picture “Argo” had more holes than a shelf full of Voodoo dolls.
Hollywood likes to turn a blind eye to truth….it is a world of make believe.
Now into our world of escapism arrives the biographical drama “The Butler”, which is supposed to depict the real life of White House butler Eugene Allen who served eight USA presidents, starting with Harry Truman and ending with Ronald Regan.
The only two things that are factual with the real life Allen and the movie character Cecil Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker, is that they are both butlers and are of African American descent.
Yes, we go to movies to be entertained.
Yes, movies are allowed to have poetic license.
Yes, this was not a documentary.
But director Lee Daniels and writer Danny Strong felt no obligation at all in balancing fact versus fiction during the 132 minutes of what is sometimes outright propaganda with one particular scene created simply for racialist shock value.
Aside from that rant, the movie is a great watch.
Through Gaines’ oldest son Louis Gaines (David Oyelowo) we follow his Forest Gump expedition through the civil rights movement from the Freedom Riders to the Black Panther Party to the election of Barack Obama.
It is also a story of a father and son relationship…the senior Gaines uncomfortable with his son’s life journey.
The various presidents are a sidebar. Each a cameo.
Thought it was kind of silly to have Robin Williams portray Dwight D. Eisenhower as a few people at the showing we were at, laughed or chuckled, when he first appeared on the silver screen.
Can’t blame them as Williams played Teddy Roosevelt in the comedy film series Night at the Museum series and also a talk show host elected president in Man of the Year.
John Cusack was dead on with his mannerisms of Richard Nixon and still can’t figure out why they had English actor Alan Rickman as Ronald Regan?
Jane Fonda was at her best as Nancy Regan and Liev Schreiber was OK in his role of Lyndon B. Johnson who was shown either always lying in bed with his pet dogs or sitting, constipated on the toilet.
Oprah Winfrey in the role of Cecil’s wife Gloria still comes across as a TV personality reading lines on the big screen. Gloria is depicted as an alcoholic cheating wife which is a far reach from the real life Helene Allen.
Whitaker is the real star of the movie. Although it was rather farfetched that the two younger versions of Gaines depicted in the movie had no physical resemblance at all to the uniqueness of Whitaker’s face.
The message of racial strife faced by the African American has been told many times before so the focus of the movie is nothing new.
The truth is that the real life of Eugene Allen would have been a much more interesting watch. His interactions with the presidents and the people he met.
But knowing Hollywood they would have screwed that up too, making Allen’s life look more like 1979s’ comedy Being There with Peter Sellers.
The twisted nature of the movie reminds me of the time I traveled to Seattle around 1984 or 1985 for a job interview with the Seattle Supersonics. It was to be part of their media team but some how back in Fort McMurray the story morphed into that I was going to the Supersonics for a tryout as a player?
Yeah sure. And Ben Affleck will be chosen to play Batman?
On a scale of one to five on The Butler Did It scale we give this a two-and-a-half.
See you on the silver screen.