As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man's life, family, and American society.
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Cecil Gaines was a sharecropper's son who grew up in the 1920s as a domestic servant for the white family who casually destroyed his. Eventually striking out on his own, Cecil becomes a hotel valet of such efficiency and discreteness in the 1950s that he becomes a butler in the White House itself. There, Cecil would serve numerous US Presidents over the decades as a passive witness of history with the American Civil Rights Movement gaining momentum even as his family has troubles of its own. As his wife, Gloria, struggles with her addictions and his defiant eldest son, Louis, strives for a just world, Cecil must decide whether he should take action in his own way.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A great and talented cast is largely thrown away on a script that starts and stops relentlessly. As one who has lived through all the historical periods portrayed, I was regrettably bored by large segments of the narrative, which seemed didactic in the extreme. That is not to diminish its important social and cultural significance to a younger audience, only that I personally found all the Presidents as played much smaller than in life than I remember them. Robin Williams as Eisenhower and Alan Rickman as Reagan seemed oddly miscast, though John Cusack as Nixon caught the essence of the man nicely. The parts showing home life among the main characters was a highlight, however.
In short, a good but not great film, perhaps better with fewer intrusive star-studded cameos and less overt moralizing.
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