Forrest Whitaker is The Butler at the White House from Eisenhower thru Reagan. He starts service under Eisenhower (Robin Williams, who has now played two presidents in the movies!). He then watches a crafty, sneaky Nixon (John Cusack) swear and sweat as Vice President and then degenerate into a drunken heap as President. Kennedy (James Marsden) lays on the ground because his back hurts, and The Butler helps him up (too much sex, I suppose, because Kenedy had a lot of sex). LBJ (Liev Schreiber) takes a dump with the door open and harangues staff while The Butler waits attentively. Reagan (Alan Rickman) is doddering and says things like, “don’t tell Nancy.” He also threatens to veto sanctions against South Africa, and guess who is lurking, tea pot in hand? Indeed, The Butler manages to serve tea at the exact moment of a discussion of civil rights in the Oval Office. It is uncanny.
Poor Jimmy Carter can’t catch a break. He’s not even worthy of a Bruce Boxleitner or Tom Wopat.
Meanwhile, like Forrest Gump, there is not a single iconic event in the civil rights era that does not envelop one of The Butler’s sons. He comes home a Black Panther and has the audacity to denigrate Sidney Poitier. Crazy talk. The other son dies in, choose one–
“Vietnam took my boy, and I don’t understand why we was there in the first place.”
This film really is Forrest Gump and I suppose that is what lies at the root of the whole Oscar snub nonsense. If that film deserved Oscars, so too this moronic fantasy.
Controversy aside, Backstairs at the White House was a thousand times better.