As he has many times in the past, Coburn called Obama “a personal friend of mine,” but that did not prevent him from calling the president’s administration lawless and incompetent and “getting perilously close” to the Constitutional standard for impeachment. [Tulsa World]
THE EMOTIONAL impact of The Butler is real and as I was sitting in the theater I couldn’t help but choke up watching the history the film relives. The Weinstein Company never misses a moment to overplay their political messages, whether it’s The Butler or their television version of the bin Laden raid, though it can also be blamed on Lee Daniels’ direction and Danny Strong’s script. However, this weakness is a blip.
The star-studded cast puts meaning to star-studded. I particularly appreciated the depiction of Richard Nixon by John Cusak, who seemed less self-aware as an actor playing Dick Nixon than the others. Seeing Liev Schreiber take a crap with his beagles in the bathroom, aides outside and Forest Whitaker, who plays The Butler Cecil Gaines, was classic. However, the scenes never reach what’s possible with the actors involved, all of whom are first rate and deserved time to breathe.
John F. Kennedy’s role in the film is full, as it is momentous, with the Freedom Riders changing his heart on segregation. The truth revealed that J.F.K. didn’t get there on his own, which I’ve written about many times. Walter Cronkite, Kennedy’s assassination something I never get through without a gulp. Jacqueline Kennedy in bloody Channel.
Whitaker is wonderful in his role, accomplishing the most important objective of any actor in a role of this depth, which is to change in all manner through the experiences he is depicting. The father and son war in the film is something any parent can relate to of that era, which pit generations against one another. The militant son, played by Michael Rainey, Jr., thinking less of his “house nigger” father, while he goes off to be a Freedom Rider, is compelling dramatic drama, with Rainey going full circle in the story, as does Whitaker.
If it’s possible to ignore that Oprah Winfrey is OPRAH with an EXCLAMATION POINT, she makes this possible by disappearing into the matriarch of the Gaines family. Her performance is humble, yet spectacular. I laughed with her, choked up, and felt her pain.
Mariah Carey I hardly recognized.
One moment where the director hangs the film up is when Winfrey and Whitaker don Obama t-shirts, which jarred the narrative mostly because the characters were suddenly so much older. I remember being in the Denver stadium in 2008, sitting next to a man who was so giddy about Barack Obama’s candidacy he couldn’t stop chanting and talking to me, with the conversation quite marvelous. He, however, didn’t have a t-shirt on either. He was waving an American flag.
What’s true in the film and what’s false? The Daily Beast already covered it.
In the Washington Post article, Eugene and Helene talk about praying for Obama to win the White House. “Just imagine,” Gloria says. “It’d really be something,” he agrees. The tragic twist, however, happened just as it’s portrayed in the movie. Days before Election Day, Helene passed away. The gut-punch of a kicker to Haygood’s article: “The butler cast his vote for Obama on Tuesday. He so missed telling his Helene about the black man bound for the Oval Office.” [Daily Beast]
When the film debuted last weekend, shortly after there was a lot of coverage & tweeting about “Ronald Reagan wasn’t a racist.” Alan Rickman plays Reagan, with Jane Fonda playing Nancy Reagan. Mrs. Reagan invites Mr. Gaines to an official White House dinner, while President Reagan finally is the one who addresses the pay disparity between the African American staff that the man in charge of the staff will not do. What upset the Reaganites was the news tumbling out of Ronald Reagan’s South African Apartheid nonchalance and his adamant stance that he’d veto any bill against Apartheid, even if Republican senators back it. Rickman as Reagan wondering aloud to Whitaker if he’s on “the wrong side” of civil rights.
Reaganites don’t like when anyone rips their mythology apart, but what’s in the film is correct. The Ronald Reagan you hear talked about by Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, et al. never existed. That’s just a fact. Ronald Reagan was a charmer and an incredible spokesperson for all things U.S.A. at a time when it was a tonic to hear. I should know, because back then I became a Reagan Democrat because of it.
Breitbart went off on Danny Strong, who also wrote HBO’s Game Change, over the film’s depiction of President Reagan. No one seems to bother with how kindly and fairly both Reagans are depicted, which makes me think most right-wing critics have not seen the film, but instead have heard the caterwauling from the Reagan cheerleaders.
“Through a friend, [Nancy Reagan] asked if I can get her a DVD,” Fonda said, according to a report Tuesday from E! Online. “So I’m trying to get her one. She’ll feel good about it, I think. …I heard some of her friends who saw the movie…really liked it,” Fonda said. “They were very pleased.” [Politico]
Speaking of Jane Fonda, some old white guy in Kentucky who owns a theater won’t show The Butler because she’s in it and plays Nancy Reagan.
When you think of the arc of history The Butler retells, with President Obama in the Oval Office today, whatever people think of him or his politics, we should all as Americans be able to appreciate the importance of his presidency. This rings clear in The Butler, as it should.
As I sat there watching, I couldn’t help wonder about the ridiculously frivolous calls for President Obama’s impeachment, Senator Coburn being the latest. With all that African Americans have endured in our country’s history, having been a witness to busing in Missouri, knowing the battles of black females still today to be equal to white females in feminism, seeing The Butler and knowing the calls of impeachment are out there makes me so incredibly sad for our nation.
The Butler is a large story, but it reveals Barack Obama’s importance to black history and the African American community. Calls for impeachment, though unserious, in today’s political climate are chilling. Too many white people still don’t understand the journey from butler to the White House, a structure built by slaves, and what Obama’s presidency means to this country, not just African Americans.
It would be one thing if Barack Obama committed an impeachable offense, a high crime or misdemeanor, but he simply has not.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, our country has come a long way, but a lot of white people, and one of our two major political parties, still have a long way to go.