With Forest Whitaker starring in a solid performance as Cecil Gaines, The Butler takes us through the story of the black civil rights movement beginning with Gaines’ brutal childhood in slavery and his rise as a butler in the White House.
The film is long but thorough, although the swift beginning cuts the emotion a little short. This makes way, however, for a strong supporting cast of recognisable faces that develop a story which is (ahem) black and white in many ways. Gaines is easy to love yet hard to gauge, dutifully serving various presidents of the USA (Robin Williams, James Marsden, Liev Shrieber, John Cusack and Alan Rickman further enriching the cast) while his son becomes an activist risking his life and contradicting his father’s dignified persona.
While Whitaker has certainly delivered stronger performances, this is still a superb actor checking in with something better than most others could do. He signs off the final scene with a heartwarming line that will leave the audience smiling in the face of such a poignant story.