Saw The Butler. Pretty successful film and an interesting/painful for someone who remembers the Civil Rights Movement revisit of an awful period of U.S. history. Really good performances, especially by Terrance Howard (no surprise) and Oprah Winfrey, who was not afraid to be seen as a less than admirable character. I can see why there is some negative comparison of the film to Forrest Gump, as both films trace a long period of U.S. history over the course of one person's life time. The Butler does this and skims the surface mostly, and uses the relationship between Cecil Gaines and his older son to illustrate the divide within the black community. I cannot fault Forest Whitaker if most of his performance feels very surface. His role was that of a man who must wear two faces: one with his family and a different one at work in a way that is far more profound than what most people must do today. Or ever, really, since the Civil Rights Movement.
I think that the film perhaps invested a lot of energy in casting well known actors in the roles of key former Presidents, simply to show that the actors could do a passable Nixon, LBJ, etc. For the record, Robin Williams was quite good as Eisenhower. I had read bad reviews of John Cusack as Nixon but I thought he was fine. They should have done a Nixon hair cut, though. I don't understand why they did not. I thought Liev Schreiber rather chewed scenery as LBJ. James Marsden and Minka Kelly were mythically beautiful as the Kennedys. Jane Fonda is much more interesting than Nancy Regan could have ever hoped to have been and wasn't able to suppress that part of her personality but it is hard to fault her for that. In fact, it was a relief. She could have gone caricature very easily but did not. I understand why so many actors wanted to be part of the project but wonder if a)the film might have carried more weight if they had gone with actors who are less well known but still good and capable of portraying iconic roles albeit briefly b)the famous named actors were cast partially to ensure that more audience members would come. I admit I wanted to see how that would work.
There is an interesting and effective bit where scenes from black students, including Gaines's son were being bullied, beaten and arrested for sitting at a whites only lunch counter while Gaines was serving at a black tie state dinner.
Here's an interesting article/interview with Lee Daniels: http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Lee-Dani ... 39031.html
I recommend seeing it, if for no other reason than that there need to be more films made about this difficult era in the US, especially told from the perspective of black people. Also, I will throw my movie dollars at any film that casts certain actors.