These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
YMMV: The Butler
Anvilicious: Racism, especially institutionalized racism that forces minorities into denying who they are for the sake of having a job and a paycheck, is bad.
Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: On the other hand, it's a problem that exists to this day, and subtlety probably wouldn't be effective at all in portraying how thankless Cecil's job is. Can anyone say "pay gap"?
Award Snub: Many were surprised when Oprah Winfrey missed out on a nomination for Best Supporting Actress, as well as the entire film for most major awards.
Critical Research Failure: The film was criticized by biographer Paul Kengor and some other historians for misrepresenting President Ronald Reagan's reasons for why he opposed sanctions against South Africa. The film portrays him as being indifferent to the plight of Black South Africans and also implies that he genuinely supported the Apartheid system, which was untrue of the real Reagan. He was known to be appalled with the system that existed in South Africa at the time, but was also concerned that sanctions would do more harm to Black South Africans than good (due to the "last to hire, first to fire" nature of segregated societies), while White South Africans would continue to prop up the system. Then there is also the context of the Cold War in which some feared that Soviet backed rebels would seek to replace the Apartheid regime with a Marxist-Totalitarian one, which the Reagan Administration saw as being equally detrimental to global security and human rights.
Some of the Mood Whiplash when it goes from sad to funny instead of the other way around, particularly Charlie's awkward attempts at pacifying the tense atmosphere his family is in after Cecil's disowning Louis and ordering him out of his house. Also his hitting on Louis' girlfriend before that.
Ensemble Darkhorse: Some reviewers call Louis a far more compelling character than his father, with his complex and unpredictable character arc. Oprah, too, for reminding people of her talents for acting in a more complicated role than the "supportive wife".
Narm: The endless parade of wacky stunt casting just gets laughable after a while.
Narm Charm: Some of the stunt casting worked well enough, with perhaps James Marsden's JFK being the most notable example.
Nightmare Fuel: The KKK sequence. The sit-in at the diner wins points because it's such a mundane, everyday setting that turns ugly, then vicious.
Jackie Kennedy crying while still covered in her husband's blood.
Playing Against Type: Oprah is much better known as a talk show host than actress. But her character isn't very sympathetic at times. And slapping her son and calling his girlfriend a low class bitch was a bit of a shock.
What The Hell Casting Agency: Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan, especially if one is familiar with Fonda's political views (and just as amusing, the real Nancy Reagan approved of her performance). Besides that, a lot of the historical figures, especially the presidents, seem to be based largely on who the crew wanted to work with that week.
As far as the Presidents were concerned, many were particularly bemused by the casting of John Cusack as Richard Nixon.
The Woobie: Cecil himself, who becomes an orphan in the worst way, lives most of his life in a racist environment, loses both of his sons (one fatally), and then his wife.
Also Gloria, who suffers some of the exact same losses her husband does.
Louis, who gets arrested over a dozen times for a cause he believes in, suffers at the hands of racists, gets disowned by his own father, loses his brother, and falls out with his girlfriend.