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An arty poster for your small movie is a great way to get attention, and Lee Daniels knows that as well as anyone. The striking, beautifully designed poster images for Precious: Based On The Novel 'Push' By Sapphire helped keep that movie's buzz going from festival to festival, all the way to a Best Picture nomination. Daniels repeated the arty trick for The Paperboy, though that movie's fate in regard to critics and awards was a little tougher. Now it's time for The Butler-- excuse us, Lee Daniels' The Butler-- and the striking poster art is back. This new one you see above debuted over at Fandango.
It's hard to say what's more on the nose, this American flag-draped figure or the one from the film's first poster, a butler in a similarly subservient pose raising a Black Power fist. Oh wait you missed that one? It's very real; check it out below:
So the image of the man wrapped in the flag is striking, and you can't argue with that list of names off the side-- it's got to be the most diverse cast this side of, uh, Lincoln maybe? But there's a lot going on in this poster that I can't figure out at all. The tagline, "One Quiet Voice Can Ignite A Revolution," really has nothing to do with the central character of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), who served as a butler in the White House from the late 1950s through the mid-80s. As you can see in the film's trailers, Cecil is happy to be employed in a steady, well-paying job and is deliberately apolitical so he can hang on to his job; when his son, played by David Oyelowo, becomes involved with the Freedom Riders and eventually the Black Panthers, Cecil is furious. So how is Cecil being credited with sparking a revolution here?
Then there's the hand-scrawled font for the names and the title, which, again, is striking, but doesn't have a whole lot to do with the story at hand. It's a story about grown-ups, set largely in the White House-- handwritten signs, seemingly with Crayons, don't really have anything to do with it. It's like a design decision made based on what looked cool, but someone who quite possibly hasn't even seen the movie.
It's not easy to make a visually gripping poster for a movie that takes place across decades and will largely be sold based on its ensemble cast-- you run into dangerous "random floating heads" territory really fast. But this shot at making something dynamic for Lee Daniels' The Butler grabs your attention, then completely falls apart after a second glance. Will the movie itself be similarly weak? Find out for yourself when it opens August 16.