Sunday, 17 November 2013

REVIEW - LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER


The story of a life, and of an entire race and its progression through 80 years of enormous change. It is a fool who would think that African-Americans in 1929 Deep South were considered any better than slaves, but it is also a fool who would think that this story begins and ends with the life of our fictional protagonist, concluding with a black man assuming office as the most powerful man in the western world. I do not object to The Butler on the grounds of it being a film about hope, I object to it on the grounds of it basing its hope in reality, or what it divines as relevant to its message from that reality. An ensemble of crass cameos perform bizarre duties of condensing history to its most portentous, straightforward soundbites, and fabricating comedy from a bumbling screenplay, unaware that they've already provided the film's humour quota in the flour-and-water makeup and the outrageous accents. Meanwhile, Forest Whitaker's Cecil Gaines is exalted as a revolutionary figure, serving tea to white men who don't even acknowledge him, never mind respect him. His son Louis' route through the troubled times of the Civil Rights Movement is depicted in callous broad strokes, often vilified when at its most vital for plain dramatic power. And the message that this film doesn't have the balls to admit it's making? That sitting back and taking it easy, approaching dangerous situations with caution and courtesy, will get you to your destination. Slowly. It is a fool who would think that this butler helped get America to its destination. It is a fool who would think that America is anywhere near its destination. Yes we can, and yes you can too, Lee Daniels, but that doesn't mean you should.