I have always loved movies that force me out of my comfort zone and make me look at something from a perspective that is different from my own. I am sure my natural attraction to different perspectives comes from my very homogenous childhood growing up in a small farming community in northern Illinois. As someone who is now raising two kids in a large metropolitan area, I now feel very blessed to have had the childhood of innocence that I did, but it also left me very naïve to the world. It very much felt like living in a bubble knowing there was a big brave world out there while having very little contact with it.
I guess that is why when I left, I never really looked back. My thirst for knowledge, diversity, flavor, excitement, and maybe a little danger has kept me living in many different places and meeting fantastic people from all over the world. My travels have opened my eyes in a way I could never have imagined as a young man. The people and experiences have brought me great joy, but also great sadness. I have a natural empathy for the world. I have always been a sucker for the Sally Struthers-type commercials to help save a starving child tens of thousands of miles away. I simply am happier when those around me are happy, but my spirits can drop in an instance just by turning on the TV and watching the evening news.
The Lee Daniels directed "The Butler" was a film that tugged at my heart and soul for two plus hours in this very way. To be so ashamed of our country's racial history and so proud of what has been overcome all at the same time is a terrific way to be reminded of our country's wealth of human spirit.
Without giving any plot away, I will say that I sat there for 20 minutes after the movie ended with tears in my eyes thinking about the completely opposite journeys the two main characters took to end up at the same place. It is a story of pride, redemption, justice, perseverance, and determination, but I left the theatre knowing that I just watched one of the greatest father-son stories ever told.
Forest Whitaker (the father in the story) has quietly become one of my favorite actors. He has been brilliant for years in films like "The Last King of Scotland" (Oscar win) and "The Great Debaters" to name a couple, but this may be the movie that becomes the center-piece of his career. I hope you feel the same way after you see it. My young children are not ready for the violence and language, but I think by the time they each hit middle school, this will be a movie we will sit down and watch as a family.
I tweeted out after the movie that I think this is a movie every American should watch. I believe that, and I think we all will be better for it.
Have a great day!