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History comes alive in star-studded cast

Scott Redmond, Staff Writer

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As the time of summer blockbusters full of action stars and more explosions than you can really count comes to an end, the types of movies that set the Oscar rumors abuzz begin to make their debut.

 “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is one of those films. Inspired by the life story of Eugene Allen who served as a butler in the White House for 34 years, the film follows the life story of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) as he serves under seven different presidents against the backdrop of the growing fight for civil rights in America.

 Director Lee Daniels’ film boasts an impressive cast including Oprah Winfrey as Gaines’ wife Gloria, Robin Williams as President Dwight Eisenhower, Alan Rickman as President Reagan, John Cusack as President Nixon and actors Cuba Gooding Jr., even Jane Fonda.

 What sets this film apart from many that follow historical events is that Daniel’s doesn’t present just one side of the issue. Often when Presidents are portrayed on screen they are heralded as heroes or painted as villains for their decisions.

 Daniels and the cast paint the issues that face Gaines, the Presidents and the rest of the cast as issues that have no simple answer.

The central gist of the film follows not only Gaines’ time as the butler in the White House where he was able to be present for many of the events behind the scenes, but that of his eldest son who was a part of the Civil Rights movement, including the Freedom Riders all the way up to the Black Panther party to the movement to free South Africa.

 Steeped in such history, it’s the acting that shines through as the caliber of acting in the film stands far above most of the popcorn flicks that populate the theaters in the summer. The ensemble carried the film, unlike most movies that ride the back of one actor.

 There are very few weak characters in those that are actually developed during the course of the film. Of course there are those that are more extras or just background characters or there for one moment acts, but that stands with all films.

 Whitaker’s character might be the one in the title of the film, but Winfrey certainly carries her own as Gaines’ wife who struggles with alcoholism and with the fact that her family is slowly falling apart while her husband spends more time in the White House.

Come this Oscar season this movie will definitely garner attention of the academy in the best film and best actor or actress categories. At the time of viewing. the audience skewed older, which historical type movies tend to have a habit of doing, but it easily dominated the box office in its first weekend over films that spoke more to younger crowds such as “Kick-Ass 2” or “We’re the Millers.”

 Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is a film that speaks more to the crowd that is looking for a bit more depth in their movies and has an interest in the history of our nation, the good and the bad. If nothing else, audiences will find themselves treated to Alan Rickman and John Cusack pulling off personifying Reagans and Nixons respectively and that is worth the admission right there.

Author’s score: 4/5 stars

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History comes alive in star-studded cast