BY ARIANA POTICHNYJ
Easily the youngest people in the theatre, a friend and I went to see Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Surrounded by people who experienced the Eisenhower administration, I watched as star after star told the tale of Cold War racial politics and the slow burn of the civil rights movement with grace, respect and feeling.
I read, before the movie, that Forest Whitaker’s performance was sub-par, but they were so, so wrong. Whitaker is put in an extraordinary position to tell the story of African-American struggles in the United States. An amazing job in a role that requires much more internal strength than external action.
Everyone was all excited to see that Oprah was going to be in the movie, but she isn’t the only huge celebrity to crop up. Between the tears, I was able to pick out Mariah Carey, Robin Williams, Lenny Kravitz–the list goes on. I want to give a giant shout out to the casting directors and make up artists for bringing the famous faces of American politics to my screen. I never noticed that Alan Rickman actually does kind of look a lot like Ronald Reagan.
And a moment for Minka Kelly as Jacqueline Kennedy: The post-assassination scene is one that stuck in my head because Kelly looks so frighteningly like the late fashion icon that it pushed me to tears. It was eerie and it puts the watcher in that moment of history. From the Kennedy administration onwards, I was a sobbing mess.
There are some portrayals of certain historic figures that are jarring, like Liev Schriber as Lyndon B. Johnson. Although the theatre was laughing, and admittedly I snickered at the prune juice as well, it really did show the ways in which the Johnson administration was, well, like the Johnson administration before that: pretty racist and backhanded.
David Oyelowo plays Whitaker’s rebellious son, Louis. The film is split between the subversive domestic rebellion of Whitaker’s Cecil Gaines and Louis’ more violent, famous rebellion in racial history. The film does an amazing job of using historical footage and mixing it seamlessly into the fictionalized storyline. Oyelowo and Whitaker will have you angry, upset and unable to comprehend how entire generations of people thought that what they were doing was okay.
And now a moment of Elijah Kelley, who I flailed about the entire time he was on screen. Possibly most recognizable as Seaweed from Hairspray, Kelley brings the much-needed younger sibling comedy to otherwise overly-tense family scenes.
You know, the last time I wrote a review and praised it so highly, I said that I could see awards in its future and it got majorly robbed. So, I don’t see anything, I don’t hear anything–I don’t even smell anything.
But you have to go see this movie.