Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)- Not the year's best serving (1½ Stars)

Now let me say this: I like the 4-star rating system. It allows a certain amount of lenience to film ratings, without being too specific. Although 1½ Stars doesn't sound too nice, that's the most that The Butler deserves, star-wise.

There's a joke/idiom/old quote that reads like this:
"The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."
In this situation, I am the second mouse, mainly because I did not get this cheese-fest of a film. The Butler (ahem, Lee Daniels The Butler) is a film that sounds like a good story, but is not a good film, primarily due to lackluster performances, bizarre style (Kuleshov Effect?), and jarring overlength.

It's impossible to discuss The Butler without discussing the film's rockstar cast, especially an Oprah Winfrey performance. I say with great disappointment that Oprah's role was very... disappointing. I found a very minimal amount of things that I can say about her performance that was truly outstanding. Outside of Oprah's role, Forest Whitaker as the butler Cecil Gaines is good. He too is not outstanding, but able in his part. The rest of the cast that is presidentially related is instead a glorified cameo.

David Oyelowo has probably the best performance in the film, mainly because he explores many roles. He is the first-born son of Cecil, and adamant about equal treatment between blacks and whites. Oyelowo explores many different variations of this equal treatment stance, from sitting-in, freedom riding, and becoming a Black Panther. It's a good part done well.

Danny Strong's script seems too inspired by films like Forrest Gump and a personal favorite, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And even if his inspiration is visible, his execution is rather bizarre. You'll believe it when you see it.

Lee Daniels, despite having his name in the film's title, is no auter. He is no artistic saint, or movie god. He can direct, but he can't direct two different styles in one movie. The Butler feels both trashy and elegiac, something that does not mesh well.

It's too bad that a film like this is pleasing the Academy. Personally, I would not vote for it, when there are films this year like Before Midnight and Frances Ha that probably will not receive the recognition they deserve.

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