THE BUTLER (12A)

WHO’S IN IT?

Forest Whittaker (The Last King of Scotland), Oprah Winfrey (The Colour Purple), David Oyelowo (Jack Reacher), Mariah Carey (Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” By Sapphire), Terrence Howard (Prisoners), Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike), Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire), Lenny Kravitz (The Hunger Games), Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting), James Marsden (Enchanted), Liev Schreiber (The Manchurian Candidate), John Cusack (Con Air), Alan Rickman (Die Hard), Jane Fonda (Klute)

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Lee Daniels (Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” By Sapphire), director, producer; Danny Strong (Game Change), writer; Cassian Elwes (The Chase), Buddy Patrick (film debut), Pam Williams (film debut) and Laura Ziskin (Spider-Man), producers; Rodrigo Leão (My Engine’s Fragile Sound), composer; Andrew Dunn (The Perks of Being A Wallflower), cinematographer; Joe Klotz (The Paperboy), editor

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Cecil Gaines (Whittaker) works his way up in early 20th century America, proving to be such an efficient and discreet hotel valet that he is soon invited to begin a job working as a butler at the White House. There, he would serve under eight US Presidents, including Eisenhower (Williams), Kennedy (Marsden), Nixon (Cusack) and Reagan (Rickman). Meanwhile, things are not as smooth back home with Cecil’s wife Gloria (Winfrey) descending into alcoholism and eldest son Louis (Oyelowo) becoming ever more rebellious…

WHY SHOULD YOU BE EXCITED?

America saw some exceptional events throughout the latter half of the 20th century, civil rights and the Cold War escalation being only some of them. As it turns out, only one man had a first-person account of all of these developments as they happened within the White House. His name was Cecil Gaines, now the focus of a new bio-drama called The Butler.

Or should that be Lee Daniels’ The Butler, as a recent debacle within the studios resulted in? As it turns out, Warner Bros ordered The Weinstein Company’s film to be renamed since they owned the rights to a 1916 silent also called The Butler. The swift resolution? Simply add the director’s name in front of the title. While Daniels has a short history of fourth wall-breaking titles – do we even need to bring up Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire? – this may seem like a pompous move to outsiders but now you know it’s all a legal issue.

Analysts have pointed this minor tweak as being the reason it aroused any interest with the American public, culminating in its sleeper hit status at the box office. However, the film’s sizeable cast must have had some form of impact, because it is filled with so many popular actors and personalities that it must have been impossible for them to ignore. Forest Whittaker of course leads the ensemble with his central performance as Gaines, but the presence of Oprah Winfrey as his wife is turning out to be the film’s talking point. It seems that you don’t need a popular daytime talk show and subsequent dedicated TV channel to win over the masses. Add in delicate supporting roles by David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard and Vanessa Redgrave among others, as well as potent cameos by Robin Williams, Alan Rickman and John Cusack among others, and you have an ensemble cast that is every definition of the word “packed”.

But will the decidedly American tale of (Lee Daniels’) The Butler find an audience in the UK? The guess it that it probably can, depending on whether we go for the cast or the story, or both – you just need to make it happen, wherever you may reside in the country, by proudly going to see it at a cinema near you.

WHEN’S IT OUT?

FRIDAY 15TH NOVEMBER 2013

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