Monday, August 19, 2013

Lee Daniels' The Butler

This movie stars Forest Whitaker, who plays a White House butler by spending two hours looking stricken.

Typical scene: The President of the moment decides firmly against taking a stand for civil rights. Forest Whitaker, quietly serving drinks in an ellipse of the Oval Office, gives him a stricken look. President changes his mind, decides to send troops to Little Rock, submit civil rights bill to Congress, etc.

The Presidents are played by ludicrously-chosen star actors. Robin Williams as Eisenhower is actually one of the more believable, if you can believe it. John Cusack plays Nixon as if asked to play Dan Aykroyd playing Nixon. Alan Rickman, the Gloomy Gus of the acting profession, plays the perpetually-sunny Reagan as if under the impression he is playing Al Gore instead. Millions of people throughout the world can do a decent Reagan impression, and whaddaya know, they give the job to the one guy who can't do it.

No wonder Forest Whitaker keeps giving them stricken looks, but that's not all he can look stricken over. He looks stricken when successive Presidents keep asking him his personal opinion on racial issues, the kind of question that no employer should ever ask an employee on any subject. He looks stricken when told he's the best butler in the White House, when he keeps not getting a raise despite that, when his son goes out and actually does things, when Obama is elected President, when he remembers that once he won an Oscar for playing Idi Amin and now he's reduced to this?

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