Director Lee Daniels, prominently mentioned in the film’s title after a much publicized lawsuit, delivers a fine emotional wallop with this historical epic very loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, a butler at the White House for 34 years. Those going to this film for its true historical significance take note: the film contains much fiction. Allen is renamed Cecil (played by Forest Whitaker), and is given a fictional older son in order to depict a family conflict regarding the civil rights movement. So, this film, which shows the butler interacting with presidents from Eisenhower (Robin Williams) thru Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman), is mostly made up. That doesn’t hurt the film’s dramatic significance; it’s an ultimately moving experience. What does damage the film a bit is horrible makeup, especially a goofy fake nose for John Cusack as Richard Nixon. The makeup is sometimes so bad that the film turns into unintentional comedy when some characters are on screen. Whitaker holds the whole thing together, and Oprah Winfrey, in her first starring role since her excellent turn in Beloved, does strong work as Cecil’s wife. Other stars playing presidents include a relatively makeup-free James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, and an absolutely covered Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson.
Director: Lee Daniels
Producer: Pamela Oas Williams, Laura Ziskin, Lee Daniels, Buddy Patrick, Cassian Elwes, Michael Finley, Sheila Johnson, Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, Len Blavatnik, Aviv Giladi, Vince Holden, Hilary Shor, Adam Merims, James Bruce IV, R. Wright, Liz Destro and Jordan Kessler
Cast: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber, Robin Williams, Clarence Williams III, Mariah Carey, Nelsan Ellis, Yaya Alafia, Colman Domingo, Minka Kelly, Elijah Kelley, Alex Pettyfer and Jesse Williams