Hammerle Reviews: 'The Butler' and 'In a World...'

Robert Hammerle
September 11, 2013
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bob hammerle movie reviews“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels would not recommend “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” as it relives recent American history as it happened, not as many political sycophants want to remember. In a nutshell, it tells the life story of Cecil Gaines, a butler who served eight American presidents. Beginning with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957, it brings the racial tensions of this country into full focus.

Forest Whitaker is perfect playing Mr. Gaines, a butler whose primary focus is to be seen and not heard. Oprah Winfrey excels beyond her personal reputation as his wife and the mother of his two young boys, a woman who finds comfort through alcohol and cigarettes as she confronts the many hours where her husband is away. She is splendid as a woman torn between her loving husband’s role as the functional equivalent of an old South’s “house n----r” and her teenage son’s rebelliousness.

David Banner plays Mr. Gaines’ son as he reaches his college years, soon finding himself participating as a freedom rider in the South. As he drifts from a supporter of Martin Luther King Jr. to a member of the Black Panthers, he is repeatedly incarcerated to the dismay of his parents. The other son enlists in the service and is sent to Vietnam where tragedy awaits.

Director Daniels succeeds in combining the interactions taking place in the White House with that occurring in the streets of America. In many parts of the country black people are treated like second-class citizens, forced to eat in designated restaurant areas as well as use only identifiable restrooms. Young people m


arching in the name of equality are brutally beaten and sometimes killed, and chaos looms with the death of Mr. King in April of 1968.

But while you see our country’s anguish, you also get an invitation into the White House. Robin Williams is surprisingly effective as President Eisenhower, a chief executive forced to confront the ugliness taking place in Selma and Montgomery.

James Marsden is spot on as a young John F. Kennedy, and Liev Schreiber nails Lyndon B. Johnson right down to his tendency to address his aides with no shame or embarrassment while seated on a toilet. Finally, John Cusack perfectly reincarnates Richard Nixon, a man who wallowed in an alcohol-infused haze of paranoia to the bitter end.

“The Butler” is a reminder that our country should focus on our own weaknesses before trying to impose our will on other nations. As I left the theater with my Saudi exchange student, Thamer, I noted how his own country, Saudi Arabia, was our ally despite the fact that it was not a democracy. Noting what the young people in his country were struggling to attain, he responded that I, as a criminal defense lawyer, should be happy to live in the United States and not his country. When I asked why, he smiled saying, “You’d die of boredom, as we have no crime.”

Shouldn’t we pay more attention to Cairo, Ill., rather than Cairo, Egypt?

“In a World…”

I have noted in earlier reviews that 2013 has been a breakthrough year for women on the screen. The most recent is by writer/director Lake Bell in her beguiling movie “In a World... .” She stars as Carol, a young woman trying to establish a foothold in the male-dominated voice-over world. Put another way, discrimination against women has not gone away in this country, including in the entertainment industry.

In this film, Carol is the daughter of Sam, a recognized legend in the voice-over world. Fred Melamed is sensational in his role as an arrogant, aging icon, and he even finds the need to toss his daughter on the street in order to make room for his new 30-year old girlfriend.

Sam’s heir apparent is Gustav, played by an equally arrogant Ken Marino. These men view their occupation as a males-only club, and they are the kings of this jungle.

When Carol is forced to live with her sister Jamie and Jamie’s husband Moe, played splendidly by Alexandra Holden and Rob Corddry, a subplot develops when Gustav attempts to seduce Ms. Holden. It may sound a bit tacky, but the movie never loses energy as the sisters wrestle with their plight.

What makes “In a World…” so charming is your gradual attachment to Carol. In a sense, she’s almost like an alter ego to Greta Gerwig’s lovable character in “Frances Ha.”rating2.gif

Both Carol and Frances are fighting to get ahead professionally in an unwelcoming world as they wrestle with the peaks and valleys of their personal lives. I found both of them to be devoid of any fake pretense, and these are two characters that all viewers, particularly young professional women, are going to find immensely appealing.

While Ms. Bell is asking a meaningful question as to why talented women are not allowed into the lucrative voice-over industry of film and radio, that same question could be asked in many areas. For example, why is our medical profession overwhelmingly dominated by doctors who are men and nurses who are women? Despite the fact that this problem is being addressed here in Indianapolis as I write this, why has the panel of federal conflict lawyers over the past 20 years been dominated by middle-aged white guys?

The importance of “In a World...” transcends Carol’s ability behind the mike. There is a great scene near the end where she bumps into the woman (Geena Davis) who made the decision to hire her over more well-known competitors. As Carol attempts to thank her patriarch, she was politely told that she was not selected because she was the most talented. To the contrary, her selection reflected the fact that it would be most meaningful to other young women aching to find a way through their own professional glass ceiling.

In the end, Carol’s triumph is every young woman’s hope and aspiration. I can’t help but believe that as the movie ends, many young women in the theater will be heard aggressively saying “Yes!” under their breath.•


Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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  1. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well