Tag Archives: John Cusack

Movie Review: Love & Mercy (2015) *I Want to Lie in Bed for Three Years Now*

Paul Dano, Brian Wilson, Love & Mercy


Love & Mercy, the biopic of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, has the distinction of being the only movie I’ve ever seen that contains four fantastic performances from great actors and yet manages to fail completely in every other aspect of film-making.  It’s a frustrating, grating look at the troubled musical genius that in all seriousness was so unpleasant to watch that I went home with a migraine Continue reading Movie Review: Love & Mercy (2015) *I Want to Lie in Bed for Three Years Now*

Movie Review: Lee Daniel’s The Butler (2013)

Forrest Whitaker, Lee Daniel's The ButlerCecil Gaines lived an astounding life.  From a childhood in the cotton fields of the south in the 1920’s, Gaines became a butler at the White House and served Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan.  During one of the most transitory periods in United States history, Gaines stood in the room, often, when the plight of Civil Rights activists was being debated.  His own son was a Freedom Rider, arrested countless times for civil disobedience with Dr. King and other brave men and women struggling for equality.  He served the Presidents that ordered our involvement in the Vietnam War before, during and after his other son fought and died in the conflict.  As a child, he saw his father shot by a white man for objecting to that man’s rape of his mother.  As an 89-year old man he saw Barack Obama become the first African-American President of the United States of America.  His is a remarkable life.  It would be, that is, if it were real.

Cecil Gaines is not a real person.  The film is based on an article written by the Washington Post about the life of White House Butler Eugene Allen.  I highly encourage everyone to read the piece “A Butler Well Served by the Election” by Wil Haygood.   Eugene Allen absolutely served in The White House for 34 years and was a witness to history. He began at the White House during Harry Truman‘s second term in 1952 and left during Ronald Reagan’s second in 1986.  Eight presidential administrations; he never missed a day of work.  He broke barriers and by his quiet dignity in the everyday lives of most powerful people in the world, altered the course of history.  He has one son who works as an investigator for the State Department.  Eugene Allen lived a remarkable enough life that his story should have been told; his name should be remembered.  For some reason this film thought Eugene Allen’s life not enough of an epic to bear his name and his legacy.  That is something Mr. Allen would have never tolerated in his day at The White House.  That is a disservice.

As a piece of fiction, the film is good, but not great.  It’s filled with excellent performances from a cast brimming with the finest actors: Forrest Whitaker, Vanessa Redgrave,  Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, Liev Schrieber, John Cusack, Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda (who plays Nancy Reagan in one of the most surreal actor-meets-role moments I’ve ever seen).  It’s not a biography; it’s not a Civil Rights epic; it’s not a family drama.  It tries to be all three over a period spanning eighty years and, as a result, everything is spread so thin that nothing that should gain weight and import, does.  It spends as much time with the character of Louis Gaines, Cecil’s son who goes from being a Freedom Rider, to a Black Panther, to a United States Congressman, as it does with Cecil Gaines.

It’s difficult for me to evaluate it as a film, though.  I wanted to look up Cecil Gaines and read more about him when I got home (largely because the film didn’t give me as much information as I wanted on his interaction with eight United States Presidents).  I then found out about Eugene Allen.  I read about his life.  His REAL life.  I wonder how many people will go the extra step and do that?  I wonder how many people will remember his name rather than that of Cecil Gaines?  I’ll remember Eugene Allen.  I hope you will too.
7.0/10 as fiction
0/10 as historical record

Lee Daniels's The Butler, Forrest Whitaker, Lee Daniels

Trailer Time: The Butler (2013)

Oscars.  That was the first thing that went through my mind after I watched the first trailer for The Butler.  The cast is phenomenal as is the scope of the story they’re telling, covering over thirty years of Presidential history through the eyes of a White House butler who served eight US Presidents.  I have to say, some of the casting is really strange.  Alan Rickman is Reagan?  Liev Schrieber is LBJ?  John Cusack is Nixon?  Also, if the film was the Academy Awards powerhouse it appears on this first look to be, why is it being dumped in August?  It’s certainly an interesting film to keep an eye on for late summer.  The Butler is scheduled for release on August 16, 2013. Official synopsis below:

The Butler tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family. Forest Whitaker stars as the butler with Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, and many more. Academy Award nominated Lee Daniels (‘PRECIOUS’) directs and co-wrote the script with Emmy-award winning Danny Strong (‘GAME CHANGE’).

Forest Whitaker, Lee Daniels, The Butler