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'The Butler' Made Obama Cry. How About You?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 27, 2013 at 7:51PM

"You know, I did see “The Butler,” and I did tear up. I teared up just thinking about not just the butlers who have worked here in the White House, but an entire generation of people who were talented and skilled, but because of Jim Crow, because of discrimination, there was only so far they could go. And yet, with dignity and tenacity, they got up and worked every single day, and put up with a whole lot of mess because they hoped for something better for their kids."
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Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines in Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER
Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines in Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER

"You know, I did see “The Butler,” and I did tear up.  I teared up just thinking about not just the butlers who have worked here in the White House, but an entire generation of people who were talented and skilled, but because of Jim Crow, because of discrimination, there was only so far they could go.  And yet, with dignity and tenacity, they got up and worked every single day, and put up with a whole lot of mess because they hoped for something better for their kids."

Words from President Barack Obama, speaking with Tom Joyner on his radio show, earlier today.

He also added that his favorite scene in the movie was the one in which Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character told some *interesting* jokes - jokes that couldn't be repeated on the air. If you've seen the film, you'll know what he's talking about here.

He also praised the acting in the film, stating:

"I thought Forest Whitaker was wonderful... And Oprah, my girl, she can act. She's just a wonderful actress, so I'm glad they did it."

And then he shared a little on his experience with the current White House butlers:

"When Michelle and the girls and I first arrived, they could not have been kinder to us and warmer to us," Obama said. "And part of it, I suppose, is they look at Malia and Sasha and they say, 'This looks like my grandbaby,' or 'This looks like my daughter.' I think for them to have a sense that we've come that far was a powerful moment for them, and certainly a powerful moment for us. We love them to death. They look after us just wonderfully."

In listening to the interview, which took place at the White House, I realized that, in the case of Lee Daniel's The Butler, we didn't have one of our usual after-opening-weekend talkbacks, which I usually post when it's a much-discussed film, the Monday after its theatrical premiere. So, with Obama's personal reaction to it now official (as well as Harry Lennix's), if you've seen the The Butler, what were your thoughts on it?

In short, I was underwhelmed. Despite good intentions by cast and crew, I found it lackluster, and hamfisted. It's conventional Hollywood biopic Oscar bait, lacking necessary subtlety that at times makes it seem like a parody of itself. 

I actually liked the rugged, grimy The Paperboy - Daniels' last film - much more than this one.

What did you think of The Butler? Did it make you cry like it did for Obama?

This article is related to: Lee Daniels


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