“The Butler” deserves watching again and again

Timing is everything.

I was reminded of that as I watched “The Butler,” Lee Daniels’ powerful tale of Cecil Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 7.43.34 AMGaines, a butler who serves eight presidents at the White House, through the civil rights movement, the Vietnam Conflict and his son’s own battle for equality.

The film’s all-star cast includes Hollywood’s best, Forest Whitaker and television’s best Oprah Winfrey – both in performances that deserved Oscars.

But the 2013 was released in the same season as “12 Years A Slave.” Steve McQueen’s heart-rending tale – based on a true story as “The Butler” was – ignited a new national discussion about slavery and included a searing performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role. The film demanded that audiences watch a free, educated man turned into animal. His rescue and return to his family was a triumph.

“The Butler” never stood a chance at the Oscars.

And that is a shame because, in any other year, “The Butler” is the best film of the year. As is, it’s one of the best films ever made.

My hope is that people will revisit as I did on a recent afternoon, understanding that even as it entertains, it teaches.

And perhaps, like me, the last line of the film will cause them to sob.

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

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