The Butler

The Butler is but the latest in Hollywood’s insatiable appetite for magic negro movies. From just the trailers, you can pretty much discern the whole screenplay. So predictable. So hilarious in its moral pretentiousness.

Hence, I had to crack up at this movie review of the film in the Boston Globe. Despite the following cringe-worthy caveats, the reviewer still gives the movie 3.5 out of 4 stars:

The dramatic structure of “The Butler” rests on a gimmick, and a pretty good gimmick at that. It’s the story of an African-American man who saw history pass before his eyes as a White House butler for seven presidential administrations, from Eisenhower through Reagan. This character, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) — a largely fictionalized version of a real White House staffer named Eugene Allen — is a fly on the wall of the civil rights era, the Vietnam War, Watergate, and much more, yet he lives only to serve. He’s a Forrest Gump for the racial underclass.

Yet “The Butler” is a remarkable, even exhilarating movie not for its inherent Gump-itude but for the social portrait that gimmick allows…

Refreshingly, “The Butler” is less concerned with events in the Oval Office than in the rest of the country and in Cecil’s own home. His wife, Gloria — Oprah Winfrey in a weary, wrinkled housedress of a performance — initially thrills when he lands the job, then slides into disgust and boredom when her husband’s work ethic keeps him at the White House until all hours. Their older son, Louis (David Oyelowo), heads off to join the Freedom Riders and sees his father as an Uncle Tom; their younger son, Charlie (Elijah Kelley), gets sent to Vietnam. You can see where this is all heading.

Yet even as “The Butler” goes overboard in its “you are here, there, and everywhere” historical march — it gets a bit much when Louis turns up in Martin Luther King Jr.’s Memphis hotel room, or when his girlfriend (Yaya Alafia, who’s very good) comes to dinner with a full-on Angela Davis afro — its portraiture of an older generation’s social milieu is unerring. I’ve never seen a movie this mainstream-minded so little concerned with what a white audience thinks…

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