Lee Daniels' schmaltzy abridgement of the Civil Rights movement. Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), an African-American man born into a family of sharecroppers and schooled in the art of “knowing he’s black,” spends 34 years of his life in domestic servitude under seven presidents. While Cecil dignifiedly fights to change the system from within, his politically active son Louis (David Oyelowo) turns left on Forrest Gump Dr., bearing witness to everything from the Freedom Writers to the Black Panthers. Screenwriter Danny Strong (Game Change) spoons on the sugar, transforming the story of real-life White House maître d'hôtel Eugene Allen into a sprawling, sometimes pandering saga that never slackens in spite of several flat-out weird casting choices and a myriad of historical happenstance. Cinematographer Andrew Dunn’s filmy lens can only shave so many lumens, and instead of the warm sense of period, the baked harshness and blaring color design add a touch of gauzy nostalgia.
Length: 2 hours, 12 minutes