Oscar bait epic centering on a butler who served 8 Presidents.
This is the first major Oscar contender of the year. Based on the real life story of an African American butler who served 30 years in the White House, this film sees history through his eyes,. Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (he should be nominated for another here) portrays Cecil Gaines, who grew up a slave and ends up an eyewitness to history from the rare inside-the-Whie House perspective. Mariah Carey has a small mostly mute role as his mom. It takes us through the civil rights movement right up to our election of our first Black President. Keep in mind, it’s NOT a documentary so some of what we see with his family didn’t actually happen. But the history DID. Which is why this movie is so powerful.
Oprah Winfrey is a surefire Oscar nominee as the wife of Cecil Gaines. She’s a force of nature. It’s amazing how much talent this one woman has in her. Among the butlers surrounding our key character: Lenny Kravitz and Cuba Gooding Jr. Terence Howard plays a close friend.
It’s a whole lot of fun watching the portrayals of these modern day Presidents: Robin Williams as Eisenhower; John Cusack as Richard Nixon; James Marsden as JFK ; Live Schrieber as Lyndon Johnson; and Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan. No- President Obama doesn’t make a cameo, though he was asked!!! Minka Kelly is a ringer for Jackie Kennedy and despite all the hoopla over Jane Fonda playing Nancy Reagan (with Fonda such an antiwar protester back in the day, she went to North Vietnam and posed on an enemy anti-aircraft gun), she’s on screen maybe 3 minutes and absolutely fits the role.
This is a history lesson and family drama rolled into one. It does get a bit soap operay but is an absolute masterpiece at times, especially the scene juxtaposing the freedom fighters refusing to leave the all-white counter at a luncheonette. Movie magic!!!