The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

September 27, 2013

Lee Daniel’s The Butler: A Captivating History Lesson

Friday, September 27, 2013 — Who would have thought that Lee Daniel’s “The Butler” would be so popular?

Of course, the film does have a prestigious pedigree. The title character is played by Academy-Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker. There are five other Oscar winning actors in various roles (Vanessa Redgrave, Cuba Gooding Jr., Robin Williams, Jane Fonda and Melissa Leo) plus two more who have been nominated (Oprah Winfrey and Terrence Howard). Add that to the Oscar that director Lee Daniels has received in the past for his screenplay for “Precious,” and that’s a lot of praise that has been received by many involved in “Butler.”  

Several of the performances in this film are special, but most of the Oscar buzz seems to be circling around Whitaker and Winfrey. Whitaker is worthy, but I am not so sure about Winfrey. I personally think she should have won back in 1985 for playing Sofia in “The Color Purple.”

However, there is a lot to like here. Just as with the performances, the production values of the film are high. The way that national history is intertwined with the “Butler’s” own family and personal life makes the impact of the events all the greater. The film tells an often moving story that is well constructed and covers many issues with great clarity.

One of the greatest strengths of this film is the pacing. “The Butler” never lingers too long in one place or one time. A historical drama such as this could get bogged down and melodramatic but this one never does. No president or event of history is before the audience too long, sometimes, it almost seems too brief, but it does successfully keep the velocity of the film brisk.

The story is always marching ahead toward a future where at least some of the problems are resolved. No one is naive enough to believe that the hatred depicted in many of the scenes has been absolutely eradicated, but the film, as it moves from the cotton fields of Georgia to the White House of the nation’s first African-American president, reminds the citizens of this great nation that we can be better than our past selves were.

One minor complaint about the speed of the film is a regret that there is no depiction of the Ford and Carter administrations. Ford was perhaps omitted because his tenure was so brief. Carter possibly because he is the only currently living president that served during the time of the narrative; it might be awkward having an actor play the living Jimmy Carter, but I for one would have welcomed a scene between the 39th president and the “Butler.”

In the end, I liked “The Butler.” It is a well-crafted film with strong performances and a compelling story. Many are speculating Oscar gold for the film.  Writer-Director Lee Daniels last film, “Precious,” garnered two Oscars and a nomination for Best Picture. “The Butler” may do as well or better. As I mentioned above, a total of eight winning or nominated actors appear in this motion picture. However, for me there are at least five films I have already seen this year that I like more than this one. “The Butler” is very good, but 2013 has given us some really great films.

Roger Thomas reviews films for The Stanly News & Press and

Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Brent Laurenz Special election adds to the mix

    RALEIGH – A busy slate of judicial elections this November got even busier recently when Judge John Martin of the N.C. Court of Appeals announced his retirement.
    A special statewide election to fill Martin’s seat will be added to the general election ballot, joining the four N.C. Supreme Court seats and three N.C. Court of Appeals races already slated for this fall.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Fake news or sign of some more trouble?

    RALEIGH – Of the three situations I can recall where agencies receiving large sums of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t divulge employees’ salaries, two of them ended badly. The third – involving a group of charter schools in Southeastern North Carolina – is playing out right now.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    WASHINGTON - The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • D.G. Martin Where did all these new voters in North Carolina come from?

    “Voters born elsewhere make up nearly half of N.C. electorate.”
    So begins the latest DataNet report from the UNC Program on Public Life, directed by former journalist Ferrel Guillory.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Some light for Dems in their time of darkness

    RALEIGH – Earlier this year, state Sen. Ben Clark, a Hoke County Democrat, became a hero for a day among his party and environmentalists when his amendment to require more well water testing near future fracking sites passed the Senate. It even gained the support of a number of GOP senators, against the wishes of the Republican bill sponsor.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Maintaining hope

    Gardeners are facing challenges with the weather this year. It seemed like we were getting great conditions in April and May. The weather was warm and we were getting some good rains. Then sometime in June the rain stopped. It got so dry that I didn’t have to cut the grass. While I enjoyed the break, the garden was not happy at all. I was having to water quite a bit to keep the vegetable garden alive and growing.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd I may be a bit behind the times, but at least I can find ‘America’

    I seem to be reading about and dealing with technology a lot lately.
    I  love technology and have always been fascinated by gadgets of all kinds and the wonderful things they can do. You never seem to go through an entire day without some form of invention enhancing your life.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Meeting out in open helps negotiations move ahead

    RALEIGH – State lawmakers reconvened in Raleigh on May 14 promising a brief legislative session this summer, but as July moves along they are still in town and tackling big issues.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content