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Lee Daniels' The Butler

2,326 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

The Butler tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family. Forest Whitaker stars as the butler with Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, and many more. Academy Award® nominated Lee Daniels (Precious) directs and co-wrote the script with Emmy®-award winning Danny Strong (Game Change).

Product Details

  • Actors: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Jr. Cuba Gooding, Terrence Howard
  • Directors: Lee Daniels
  • Writers: Danny Strong, Wil Haygood
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: January 14, 2014
  • Run Time: 132 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,326 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00EV4EUT8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,864 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

181 of 222 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Laurence Raw on November 20, 2013
Format: DVD
THE BUTLER is a film which, for all its sentimental tone, nonetheless addresses the fundamental issue of civil rights, and whether the reforms of the Sixties have actually had the desired effect. It centers on the life of Cecil Gaines (Forrest Whitaker), who grew up on a plantation but spent most of his career in service at the White House. To his son Louis (David Oyelowo), Cecil is nothing more than a representative of "Uncle Tom" culture, spending his life in willing thrall to the white man. On the other hand Cecil manages to provide for his family and carve out a career; it is only late on in his life, when President Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman) offers him an opportunity to savor something that he has never previously experience, that he understands how little his masters have changed, ideologically speaking, since the days of racial segregation. This is the film's "aha-moment" - from then on Gaines devotes himself to the cause of equal rights. THE BUTLER brings out the ambiguities of the African American experience; how Gaines' life might be regarded as a form of "liberation," despite working for a succession of white Presidents; and how the Civil Rights cause (as symbolized by the Black Panther movement of the Sixties and Seventies) might not have necessarily aided the African American experience. The film contains a clutch of memorable performances: Oprah Winfrey is quite admirable as Gaines' wife Gloria, supported by Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr., in supporting roles. Whitaker is quite simply brilliant in the title role; he ages gracefully while always sustaining his self-respect. If he does not get Oscar-nominated for his performance, I'd be extremely surprised. A memorable cinematic experience.
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Format: DVD
Lee Daniels' The Butler is something of a mixed bag. Had it been made twenty years ago, it might have stood on more original ground, but in 2013 it has a highly derivative feel to it, like what you'd get if you crossed Backstairs at the White House (a TV-miniseries from the 1980's that related the real-life experiences of a mother and daughter who worked as maids at the White House over a period of fifty years, starting with the Taft administration and ending with the arrival of JFK) and Forrest Gump where the life of a fictional character seems to cross paths with all the notable figures of his day.

It is important to emphasize that in spite of the impression the promotions for The Butler give, this film is in fact fiction. It is supposedly based on the life of a real-life White House butler named Eugene Allen, but other than the fact that Forrest Whitaker's character - a butler named Cecil Gaines - works at the White House for over three decades - almost nothing that happens in the film had anything to do with Allen's actual life.

Besides Whitaker's stand-out performance, the supporting cast are quite good as well, from Oprah Winfrey as Gaines' much put-upon boozed-up wife to Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Lenny Kravitz as Cecil's fellow staffers and Terrence Howard as a somewhat too familiar neighbor. David Oyelowo does a creditable job as Cecil's elder son, Louis, who takes the audience through almost every aspect of the black civil rights' experience, from joining the Freedom Riders and participating in sit-in protests at segregated diners to the later Black Panther movement and later still into the rising of black candidates for political office.
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110 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Carol Joy MacNaught on January 19, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
I didn't like wasting my time on this fiction. It said based on a true story yet they gave him an extra son, had his father killed,and made his wife an adulterer and an alcohlic. This good man had the right to TRUTH about his life.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kevin on January 14, 2015
Format: Amazon Instant Video
I liked this story mainly for the historical perspective it provided..... until I looked it up and found out most of the story was made up and complete fabrications. I no longer like the movie. I feel duped (there are artistic liberties and then there are downright lies).

For those interested he didn't have a mom that was raped, he didn't have a dad that was murdered, he didn't run away and steal to survive, he didn't even grow up in GA or live in NC. He grew up in VA in a nice house and voluntarily left under normal circumstance to seek better employment. His wife didn't cheat or drink. He had no son that joined the Freedom Riders or was in the Civil Rights movement. He did actually have ONE son but he did not die in Vietnam. I think about the only thing that is true about this movie is that he was a butler in the White House. Everything else is completely fabricated.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on July 30, 2014
Format: DVD
As one who lived through and participated in the Civil Rights events of the era depicted in this movie, I find the whole vehicle not just unnecessary, but also unnecessarily painful, undignified anachronistic and demeaning to those like myself who actually lived through those events.

I found nothing honest, accurate or redeeming about the juvenile morality play or the mindless and empty depiction of blacks as cardboard cutouts in this movie. The characters were syrupy one-dimensional stereotypes of Lee Daniel's original story: literally cardboard cutouts of a past era with a "pasted-on" or "painted-in" plastic and false black humanity.

As always, it shows blacks as little more than spineless troglodytes, with a "second hand, hand-me-down humanity, shuffling around the White House and around white America, mostly at night -- either humming religious hymns through fake piety, or raising hell and "cutting up?" Like the slave images only these movie makers limited imaginations can come up with, there are no normal blacks or normal black families: just dysfunctional one that adhere closely to the stereotypical American story line. God forbid that the moviemakers could one day do enough research to get the basic facts of black life correct for just once instead of leaning on old stereotypes?

However, since "Auntie Oprah" was involved, (and not a bad piece of acting on her part) how could we have expected anything more? She has made a "cottage industry" out of "milking" the last ounce of the "bent over whining, and shuffling humanity" of the "Old Black Joe" and "mammy" tropes.
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