Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Oscar Surprise: Oprah Gets the “Mo’Nique” Role in Lee Daniels’ The Butler


My friends, do you recall the fuss people made about MoNique when “Precious” first screened? By the time she finished torturing Gabby Sidibe, people were engraving her gold Oscar statue and trying to remember where the apostrophe went. Well, in Lee Daniels’
“The Butler,” which screened today for SAG and a smattering of press, I can tell you what happened: another woman known by one name caused the same stir.

I can’t review the movie yet because it’s still early– the it doesn’t open until August 16th. Chalk this up as an Oscar observation.

Her name is Oprah, although she will have the Winfrey name on her nominations certificate and maybe even that statue. This is what happens: Oprah, who really hasn’t acted since “The Color Purple” and “The Women of Brewster Place,” makes a startling return as the wife of White House butler Forest Whitaker. She plays Gloria Gaines, who I think is kind of a fictitious character inspired by the life of the real butler’s wife.

Oprah is simply off the charts mesmerizing as Gloria. It’s as if she’d been acting this whole time. (Some will say she has been, but I disagree.) Among the many powerful performances in this landmark movie, Winfrey jumps out because of her long absence from the screen. People in our showing–which was a very good cross-section of black and white, young and old– people were crying through this movie. And Oprah gets a scene stealing Oscar moment that is going to take her right into every awards show. If I had to bet now, I’d say she wins Best Supporting Actress. She’s that good.

And by the way, among the audience were none other than Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer. Mike gave the movie a hearty thumbs up on the way out. He wasn’t the only one.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News