“The Butler” Serves Thoughtful Fare

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Robbie Feulner, Staff Writer

The Butler, released in 2013, follows the true story of Eugene Allen (played by Forest Whitaker), as he goes from a young boy working in a plantation to a butler in the White House, to an old man, witnessing many historical events over his years in Washington, DC.  The film, based on the novel by Danny Strong, embodies the struggles African Americans faced during the twentieth century.

The film begins with an extremely solemn tone as a tragedy to his father leaves Allen is traumatized for the rest of his life. From the music in the first scene, the effect of his father’s passing strikes as a poignant note, and the awful scene stays with viewers throughout the movie. In his early life, Allen goes through a couple of odd jobs to provide some comic relief to lighten the mood. Forest Whitaker plays his role terrifically throughout the movie and his narration enhances the viewer’s’ perspective on his specific situation. Especially when family problems become a focal point in his life, his narration brings the viewer a sense of emotional direction.  The film’s other primary star, Oprah Winfrey, plays her role of a loving mother and flawed wife perfectly as viewers feel the emotion that she displays on the screen.

There are some flaws in the film’s transitions. I disliked the text that shows during changes in time. Lee Daniels, the director and producer of the film, could have done a better job in showing the viewer the time period with historical elements and people present rather than text showing the year and president. Such a small detail could’ve made the beginning of each chapter in Allen’s life more interesting as one would have to figure out the context of the specific time period.  The film targets an older, adult audience as they could put themselves in Allen’s shoes and witness history alongside him. Younger viewers do not have the historical context and have not experienced the political climate like older viewers, making their experience less of a trip to the past, but rather almost a history lecture. However, younger viewers can learn a lot from this film about the Civil Rights Movement and its figures.

Although the film has a very solemn tone for its majority the interjection of comedy and the lightheartedness of others make it an emotional journey and definitely worth a watch. You can find this film on Netflix.