Lee Daniels’ The Butler: a quick review and discussion with Lee Daniels and Cuba Gooding Jr.


Back in July I had the distinct privilege of sitting at a round-table interview with Academy Award nominated director Lee Daniels (Precious, Monster’s Ball) and Academy Award winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr (Jerry Maguire, Red Tails), who were in town to promote the upcoming movie Lee Daniels’ The Butler.  This “inspired by a true story” film has been widely received and garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.  I’ve personally received several emails, from last night’s screening giveaway winners, and each one of them was filled with emotionally charged statements that sang praises for this film.

As I was preparing to screen the movie a few weeks ago, I was still coping with the recent Zimmerman verdict, and the racially charged reactions that ensued, and appreciating the timeliness of a movie like Fruitvale Station being released.  And my spirit was still in “fighting mad” mode. How appropriate it was for me then to view the story of Cecil Gaines; who in the Daniels’ film is portrayed by Academy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland).  Cecil Gaines is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, who served in the White House under seven presidential administrations as a butler.  His position, and its corresponding demeanor, puts him at odds with his eldest son, portrayed in the movie by actor David Oyelowo (Red Tails, Middle of Nowhere); and his commitment to his job/role helps to introduce conflict into the Gaines family dynamic in more ways than one.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler serves as a pertinent reminder of those whose contributions to the struggle aren’t as frequently discussed or highly regarded.  The film is powerful in its display of the quiet resiliency of the main character, and in Daniels’ remarkable ability to help the audience connect to each character’s truth.  I can’t readily name one film, of recent memory, that took me through various emotions while viewing, and this film accomplished that feat with ease.  There were several persons who left the press screening I attended with tear-filled eyes; some joyful, some with pride.  It is definitely that kind of film.

(l to r, standing) Lee Daniels, Alex Gibson, Le Anne Lindsay, Thomasena Farrar, (l to r, seated) Cuba Gooding Jr., Yaya Alafia
(l to r, standing) Lee Daniels, Alex Gibson, Le Anne Lindsay, Thomasena Farrar, (l to r, seated) Cuba Gooding Jr., Yaya Alafia. Photo courtesy: Le Anne Lindsay (Tinsel & Tine)

What a pleasure it was then to sit with both director (Daniels) and one of the stars of the film (Gooding Jr.),  who were also joined by talented co-star Yaya Alafia (see her full interview in August 13 post), at the posh Rittenhouse Hotel to ask a couple of signature questions.  When you’re part of a round-table time is of the essence, we were only given approximately 15 minutes combined, hence the couple of questions! So listen to the audio below (warning some profanity), and take note of Lee Daniels’ response to my sharing my favorite Lee Daniels’ film!  Shout out to my co-panel Le Anne Lindsay of Tinsel & Tine, and Alex Gibson of the Philadelphia Film Society, and to Brian Chacon for helping with the audio edit.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler opens this Friday, August 16 nationwide.  The film is rated PG-13 and I highly recommend it for ages teen and above (and maybe those tweens who can process mature language and violence).  Stop back and share your thoughts after you see it.

Until next thought family,  Thomasena


  1. Hi,
    Thank you for the recording of the interview and making it so that even I could hear it. I am so hyped up about this movie and cannot wait until it hits Germany.

    What I love about your article today is the interview. Lee Daniels feels about his films, the way I feel about writing. I have been working on my first book since 2009, because i want to capture the hearts of the readers. Now, I am at the point where I have started looking at agents. I don’t have one yet, but I know I’ll get one, because I have something to say. I’ve got a story to tell. So, the interview, even though it was only 15 minutes made a big difference for me today. Listening to Lee and Cuba made my day. It has given me courage to keep on doing my thing, whether I am writing my book or writing my blogs.

    Thank you. I needed to hear this, this morning, because I feel isolated sometimes due to where I live.

    Love you, girlfriend.



    1. Patricia, it makes my day knowing that this post has blessed you like that! I was hesitant to share audio, and mostly did so because of a colleague’s influence, so this is just confirmation that is was good to share in that manner. Really appreciate your sharing and I most certainly love you back 🙂


  2. Love the review! Thanks for sharing the audio recording of the responses your two questions elicited from Daniels and Gooding Jr. Your review and their responses made me want to see the movie and look forward to future projects from them.


  3. Thank you for my tickets. The Butler was awesome. I just loved it. Lee Daniels is a great director. Truly enjoyed this movie.


  4. It was exciting to get a chance to hear the live interview! Thank you for sharing the moment with us. I know the Butler is going to be well worth the money!!! Thanks Thomasena!


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