[Review] Not enough time for history 101

By Chris Lau
By Chris Lau |

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In The Butler, director Lee Daniels chronicles the pain and hardship endured by fellow black Americans through the country's recent history.

It tells the story of butler Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), from farm boy to a man with access to the world's most important men.

As a child in the segregated South of the 1920s, Cecil was a victim of white tyranny, seeing his father gunned down by his employer, and being forced to work as a servant.

Flash forward to the 1950s. Having worked in hotels, Cecil is a respected worker, and fate brings him to an interview for a job at the White House. The number one rule is not to be political.

Cecil is happy not to have an opinion in order to survive, even when race relations are being discussed. But trouble brews when his older son becomes a vocal advocate of black rights.

Whitaker gives a believable portrayal of a repressed servant, lost husband and confused father, and Oprah Winfrey is a surprising triumph of casting. But Daniels is overly ambitious, trying to fit too much into 132 minutes. The film offers an informative glimpse into black history, but lacks focus.



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