My partner and I spent two years actively not watching Lee Daniels’ film Precious. It sat in our Netflix queue taunting us, and eventually became a running joke — whenever we were looking for a movie to watch, invariably one of us would sarcastically bring it up, as if to suggest there was no way we were ever going to be in a bleak enough mood to actually hit play. We, of course, knew that it had been nominated for several Academy Awards (and won that prize, along with every other film award, for Mo’Nique), but though we don’t usually shy away from dark subject matter, Precious just seemed to be at a whole different, wrist-slitting level.
And then, one day, we took the plunge. We hit play. And whaddaya know — we freakin’ loved it. I mean, really, really, really loved it. The writing, the directing, the acting (Mariah Carey, who knew?) — we loved it all.
Fast forward three years and Daniels’ The Paperboy is sitting in our queue, and even my major crush on Zac Efron hasn’t been enough to earn it a viewing. Of course, The Paperboy didn’t receive nearly the critical acclaim of Precious, to put it mildly. But still, I would have thought the goodwill from our previous Lee Daniels film experience, plus a shirtless Zac-y, might have done the trick. Nope. (At least not yet — check back with me in 2015).
Which leads me to the just released trailer of The Butler, Daniels’ new film, starring Forrest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and just about every other actor in the known universe playing historical figures during the time of the titular butler’s residence in the White House. And I find myself in a familiar spot, wondering if my Daniels pattern is about to continue.
Watching the trailer it’s hard to get a read on what kind of film this is. Is it an uplifting film like The Help? (The music certainly suggests so). A historical docudrama like Lincoln? (So it’s the butler that made JFK realize the importance of civil rights?) A gritty family drama like Precious? (Alex Pettyfer, why are you being so mean to Forrest Whitaker?)
And what is with the casting? Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda as Ronald and Nancy Reagan I can maybe buy, and James Marsden and Minka Kelly at least have the good looks of JFK and Jackie, but Liev Schreiber as Lyndon Johnson, Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower and John Cusack, of all people, as Richard Nixon? My lord!
This looks like it could have the potential to be amazing or a hot, hot mess, though that scene of Oprah trashing it up with a cigarette may alone be worth the price of admission. Although that’s what I thought about the notorious beach scene between Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron, and we know where that got The Paperboy — at the bottom of my Netflix queue with no viewing happening anytime soon.
What are your thoughts on the trailer for The Butler? Does it make you want to see the film?