Lee Daniels’ The Butler comes out today, featuring an all-star cast including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Terrence Howard, and Daniels favorites Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey. Basically everyone in the world is in this movie, all to tell the inspiring tale of Cecil Gaines, the titular butler inspired by the real life Eugene Allen, who served under seven presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan.
While Gaines toils away in the presence of greatness, privy to some historic presidential precedents — Eisenhower sending troops to Little Rock, JFK ‘s civil rights address, LBJ’s Civil Rights Act, Nixon being drunk — his son Louis makes history as an activist, participating in sit-ins, hanging out with Martin Luther King, joining the Black Panthers, etc. The entire film is a lesson in the civil rights movement and it brings that tumultuous time alive like no film in recent memory.
It also brings to light some unsolved mysteries, answers to which are found throughout the film. We’re tying a smart sweater around our shoulders and peddaling through Cabot Cove à la a young Angie Lansbury to solve these cases.
Queerty, She Wrote. Check out 4 mysteries solved by Lee Daniels’ The Butler.
1. The Case of Oprah’s Stolen Oscar
Mystery: Anyone who’s ever seen The Color Purple knows that Oprah and Whoops Goldberg were openly robbed for Best Supporting and Lead Actress, respectively. Yet no one called the cops. It was actually grand theft Oscar that March night in 1986, when The Color Purple tied the Shirley MacLaine-Anne Bancroft bitchfest The Turning Point as the most-nominated film without any wins: 11. Where’s Oprah’s goddamn Oscar?
Case Closed: Right here. She’s fantastic in Lee Daniels’ The Butler as Cecil’s long-suffering, alcoholic wife, Gloria — bringing to mind another standout Lee Daniels-directed performance, Mo’Nique in Precious. While she doesn’t dance around in a spandex bodysuit like Mo, O does dance around in a two-tone jumpsuit and fake afro. Sounds like this case is ready to be put to bed.
2. The Case of Mimi’s Emancipation
Mystery: Mariah Carey was five minutes late to the press conference last week and it was the most amazing thing we’ve ever seen. In a room full of stars, including Oprah Fucking Winfrey, Mimi managed to outshine them all. But she’s in the movie for less than the five minutes by which she arrived tardy. Why?
Case Closed: Mariah plays the young Cecil’s mother, a field worker — slavery was technically over, but conditions had barely changed. The diva appears free of all the trappings of her diamond-encrusted life and makes the most of her few minutes on film. As for the why, Mimi explained during that press conference that she was just glad to be included with such a stellar cast. Divas can be team players, too.
3. The Case of Terrence Howard’s Missing Tooth
Mystery: Terrence Howard’s a good-looking man, much like Oprah has a little money set aside. His distracting prettiness almost cost him the role of her lascivious neighbor, Howard, however. Then he removed something that’s been a part of him for the past 25 years.
Case Closed: “Lee called me and he was like, ‘TT, I’m having trouble. I want to put you in this movie, but I can’t now. There’s this one character left but you’re too pretty for him. I don’t know what to do!’ ” Howard told CNN. “And he’s like, ‘Can we cut your hair off or maybe give you an eye patch or a scar or something?’ And I was like, ‘You know what, I got a crown on this front tooth, you know, I can take that out.’ He’s like, ‘Don’t you do it! Don’t you do it! … I’ll set up a dentist appointment right away!’”
4. The Case of Martin Luther Queen, Jr
Mystery: Watching Louis Gaines hang out with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. before he got shot that fateful day in Memphis, Tennessee, you might take pause to wonder who’s portraying that legendary, mustachioed civil rights pioneer.
Case Solved: Then if you just imagine the mustache away, draw on some eyeliner and wrap that crewcut in a sequined scarf: Voilà! Lafayette Reynolds from True Blood. Nelsan Ellis is just one of the many famous people tapped to play even more famous people, so you’ll have a game of Name that Actor playing in the back of your head throughout the entire film: James Marsden as JFK; Minka Kelly as Jackie Kennedy; Liev Schreiber as LBJ; Robin Williams as Eisenhower; Alan Rickman as Reagan; Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan; but John Cusack as Nixon is simply incredible. And drunk. We weren’t kidding before.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler opens nationwide today. Get showtimes and tickets here.