Lee Daniels' The Butler, in which Forest Whitaker portrays Cecil Gaines, a butler who served eight U.S. presidents at the White House (the character is based on the real-life Eugene Allen), is drawing much critical praise, particularly for Whitaker's performance. A.O. Scott in The New York Times writes that Whitaker demonstrates how gracefully his character walks the line between dignity and servility.
Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News comments, Whitaker is, as ever, remarkable. He makes Cecil proud and strong even when his position demands he be recessive, an unseen conscience to the people he serves.
And Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal remarks, Forest Whitaker brings a quiet grandeur to the title role of a white-gloved Uncle Tom who, ever so slowly radicalized by events, becomes the proud black man he was born to be.
The movie itself is receiving a mixed reception. Writes Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer, it is undeniably powerful ... an inspiring and important summation of the black struggle. But Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle concludes: The Butler is a nice idea for a movie, but has a mostly silly script and some of the craziest and most laughable casting imaginable.