It is hard to believe that the world has changed so much in a lifetime. The butler is an account to those changes and a witness to history. Released in 2013, it wowed audiences with an all-star cast. Indeed, apart from Forest Whitaker playing the main character, we can also glance amazing performances by Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, James Marsden, John Cusack or Jane Fonda.
Starting in 1926, this is the story of Cecil Gaines. African american, born owned, he was raised on a cotton plantation. At the age of seven, working the field, he doesn’t yet grasp the injustice of life. He will quickly learn. Annabeth Westfall, the estate’s caretaker and owner’s grandmother takes pity on him and trains him as a house servant. From then on he will be a butler. In 1957, he is hired by the White House during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration.
For 34 years, he will work there and be the witness to many decisions made about the he civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affecting people’s live, families, and the American society in general. Cecil will serve 8 different presidents while struggling with keeping his alcoholic wife and strong headed son afloat.
Loosely based on the real life of Eugene Allen, The butler is a nice movie. I have to say that it did teach me some things about American history. It’s made me realize how far we have come in such a short period of time. Cecil Gaines in this movie lived through segregation. He struggled all his life between the desire to not cause waves and the one to have equal rights, starting with the same pay for all at the White House. He was on the sideline of the Black Panthers movement, through his son’s involvement but Cecil also witnessed the election of the first black president.
I believe that to use the life of a butler working at the White House was quite clever to tell this story. Of course it is not all facts and a lot of details have been added for dramatic effect, however for me it works.
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