Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5
It’s a civil rights history lesson through the eyes of Cecil (excellent Forest Whitaker) from seeing his family brutalized in the cotton plantation in 1926, through his tutorship in how to be the perfect house negro and ultimately butler for four presidents. The story is fictional but inspired by a real person. Cecil displays his two faces (one toward the white folks) while witnessing the Selma riots, freedom riders, Martin Luther King, rise of the Black Panthers to the present day election of Barack Obama. Much of the drama is based on his relationship with his (along with his wife – a believable Oprah) oldest son, Louis, who is embarassed by his father’s servile ways.
I enjoyed the journey, which was neither overly dramatic nor too comedic. I didn’t learn much, except for the shock of seeing how blacks could be openly gunned down in 1926 south without fear of retribution. The most eloquent and insightful defense of the black service profession comes from Dr. King, in a couple of short sentences he directs toward Louis. The only false or contrived note is the juxtoposition of Cecil having short interactions with several presidents immediately followed by a change of heart and the president next seen pushing civil rights legislation. Ultimately it’s an inspiring film, and I recommend it.