In the meantime he is apparently happily married and raising two boys. The main theme of the film is the dichotomy of his work in the White House up against his oldest son who becomes a militant in the civil rights movement. As a White House butler he is not supposed to give his opinion about anything. His son can’t understand how he can be so passive.
The problem with the movie is three-fold. It’s slower than molasses, overly long, and lacks any real character development. It’s hard to bond with any characters when you never get to know them. Everything feels superficial. You have to take it for granted that he is a loving husband and parent, and that he develops great relationships with all the presidents he serves. The movie certainly doesn’t cultivate them.
It’s a shame that the movie comes out so flat. It covers the very important subjects of civil rights and race relations, and “The Butler” provides a good device to explore them. It’s just that transporting the narrative to the big screen could have been so much better.
On a positive note, I do know people who actually liked the film. Because of that I won’t totally discount “The Butler” since its message is important. Just be prepared for some disappointment. “The Great Gatsby” proved that big stars and big hype don’t necessarily make a great movie.
David Kent is the director of the Village Library of Cooperstown. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.