I went to see The Butler, and since I know Ametia’s going to see it too, I thought we’d write our own thoughts about the movie.
I really liked it. I had trepidation going into it, but came out of it really liking it.
I liked it because I thought Daniels brought a lot of Black Pain in vivid color, pretty much from the opening scene, with Mariah Carey and David Banner, which was about as ugly and truthful as anything in Black History.
For me, all the scenes with regards to Black Pain was brutal, honest, forthright, and I appreciated them being put ‘in color’. I have seen numerous pieces on Black History, especially with the Civil Rights Movement, but they were usually in Black and White. By bringing those scenes in color, IMO, makes it real for generations who don’t even know their history.
From the background of non-violence resistance and making it clear that this just didn’t come out of the sky and Black folks just decided one day to show up at lunch counters….to the ugliness and terror and horror of the Freedom Rides….to using the actual Black and White footage from the happenings during the Civil Rights Movement…I appreciate Lee Daniel’s choices as a filmmaker.
Now about ‘The Butler’ and his family. I loved Forest Whitaker’s performance. I understood it, and I loved it. He was so many Black men who lived horrible situations, and set a goal for themselves, because after all, they were Black men in America during a certain time, and the vision of what was possible was limited. I don’t blame those with that vision, and of course, there would be conflict with those that could see more – like his son, played brilliantly by David Oyelowo. The wonder of this movie is that neither one of these men was wrong….they just couldn’t see the other. And, David Oyelowo’s Louis Gaines was able to see BECAUSE of the life his father provided for him, which neither man got until years later.
For Cecil Gaines and his experiences, his goal was to provide a place of SAFETY for his entire family, which he never had, and which his father was never able to for him. He was married to a woman who quit working after they got married. Back in those days, he was able to provide for his family so that his wife didn’t have to work outside of the home, which we all know, was special for a Black family. Between that, and his sons never having to work a cotton farm, Cecil thought he had done what a man should do…he didn’t have the ‘vision’….but, he did right by his family. What he did wrong is what so many of our ancestors have done – they didn’t talk about their pain or the past and the darkness from which they survived. Louis the son was working from a surface vision of the father being ‘just a butler’, while not knowing all the rest.
Best scenes in the movie were with her. Her Gloria is a woman defined by others. She is defined by being Cecil’s wife and Louis and Charlie’s Mother. That was her entire world, and in order to fill the void, she looked to things she shouldn’t…
The dinner scene that has been in the previews where Gloria tells her son:
“everything you are and everything you have is because of that butler.”
I can’t even begin to explain how much that scene moved me because there was so much going on in the entire scene, from beginning to end- Oprah owned it.
Oprah showed Gloria’s pain, but also her triumph. Her delicate balancing act between these two men she loved that were on different courses. I’m so glad Lee Daniels showed a Black Couple working through problems and pain going onto the senior years, with them still being together. I appreciated the FAMILY story most of all.
Enjoyed the rest of the cast, especially those that showed Black life outside of work, and even at work, showed the different mindsets of the Butlers in the White House. Cuba Gooding, Jr. was no less an excellent butler, but we saw the Lenny Kravitz character thinking more broadly about world.
Of all the Presidents, I enjoyed John Cusack’s Nixon the most, because he showed the decline of Tricky Dick from being Ike’s VP to right before resignation.
I enjoyed the movie.
Back and forgot to add: I also loved the Cecil learned from the past. When it came for him to take the opportunity to do the right thing in terms of South Africa…he did. He ‘missed’ the Civil Rights Movement, but saw the obvious parallels with Apartheid and the fight for right there.
Ametia: I thought the movie was BRILLIANT. And of course, my dad and mom lived so much of this life. They both served on many a dinner party for the white county elites where we grew up.
I remember right up until my dad died in 2010, he had a picture of himself dressed in a white coat standing by a buffet table in the county judges mansion. I was so upset the first time I saw it in the living room on top of the TV. I never told my dad that initially, I was ashamed and angered by that photo. I guess I was a lot like Louis Gaines.
Interesting how Cecil’s dad took a bullet for speaking out against his wife being raped. Cecil’s son Louis is born and becomes a Freedom Fighter. It gives us hope to know that each generation has the opportunity to do it differently, to affect postive, though not always easy changes in our culture and consciousness.
Cecil never wavered in his own sense of self and It really warmed my heart to know that he never gave up on fair pay for him and the other black staff. He finally came around to seeing Lewis’ point of view in the later years.
I, like Rikyrah, appreciated the RAW reality of how the white masters brutally raped black women and black men had to either remain silent or die leaving their children and family behind. This is the UGLY that some white folks don’t want to OWN.
All the WH Butlers were depicted as individuals, sharing common experience of serving in the WH, yet they were distinct in their own life experiences and interests.
Jane Fonda’s Nancy Reagan was spot on. I loved how she invited Cecil and Gloria to the WH, even if was just for show. It gave a sense of possiblility that Cecil, Gloria and the other butlers could and would become more.
I had mentioned earlier that I did not want to see this movie with white folks that I know. And I’m glad I didn’t. Some of their excuses of “I don’t like violence” pisses me off. That era of slavery was anything but sunshine and roses. It’s them not wanting to deal with the UGLY truth of racism.
I remember when the students had their sit-in at Woolworths. The Ketsup and hot coffee being poured over those black students was very visceral, for me. It illustrated the outright HATRED of white folks. Like how in the hell does it affect them if a black body sits down at a lunch counter to have a meal or drink?
My favorite Gloria scene: When Gloria shared with Cecil that their son Louis had come by after his brother had gotten killed in Vietnam. Gloria was pissy drunk and had passed out. Lewis cleaned her up.
I was disheartened and yet ever hopeful by the uncanny events of yesteryear like voter suppression, Stop & Frisk, the murder of Trayvon Martin, and basic Civil Rights being fucked with today by a justice system that is still not metering out EQUAL JUSTICE for all.
I’m sure I’ll have more to share, as I continue to process the movie.