Filmmaker Daniels and actors Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey tell the story of the Civil Rights era of 20th-century America, not through the eyes of brave crusaders like Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X, but in the career of a meek, well mannered black domestic named Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), who served seven US Presidents and occasionally, only occasionally, witnessed history from his vantage point. Irony abounds in the screenplay by writer Danny Strong, adapted from Wil Haygood’s newspaper feature. Why bother with such a marginal figure? One reason is to set an exceptional cast of character actors loose on a big, sprawling story: Winfrey, Terrence Howard, David Oyewolo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Vanessa Redgrave, John Cusack (as Richard Nixon), Alan Rickman (Ronald Reagan), Jane Fonda (Nancy Reagan), Liev Schreiber (Lyndon Johnson), Robin Williams (Dwight D. Eisenhower), et al. The other reason is to let that irony sink in, in the expressions on the faces of Whitaker and Winfrey as the butler and his long-suffering wife, when the world changes around them. Narrowly misses being the African-American Forrest Gump, but hooray for the difference (126 min.).
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Corn is good for you.