The story of Cecil Gaines and how he went on from a child in a cotton farm seeing his father being shot dead to then learning how to serve. This sees him ending up in the biggest house of them all, the White House and serving eight presidents.
A look through a lot of American history and how things changed for the black community during the reigns of different presidents following movements from young people who grew tired of living a second class life. This sees the civil rights movement being a very key part of the story and how Cecil’s oldest son Louis is very much involved in this. Which causes a rift between father and son which lasts decades. The Vietnam war also plays a big role when his youngest son Charlie fights for his country.
It really does fit a lot of American history is such a short space of timing spanning around 80 years in the life of one man, showing just how major events can affect someones life. Making you think about how many people were actually effected by all of those things on a personal level as well. It also helped to show how important Cecil’s job in the White House was to him as his personal relationships with his wife and children suffer during difficult times.
Oprah Winfrey puts in a brilliant performance as Gloria really putting up a good pairing with Forest Whitaker who is incredible in this film. Especially with how young he starts and we see his performance growing with his characters age. Not something we get to see on screen very often.
I think one of the major problems with this film though is certain casting for the Presidents. Some of them just did not work well at all, I found John Cusack to be the strangest of them all, he just did not fit being Nixon. I didn’t even manage to work out early on which president he was. Good job they put on the different reigns and years on the screen just to avoid any major confusion and let the audience know exactly what was going on.
I found myself learning more about specific events in American history which I did not really know too much about, being from the UK it’s not something we learnt about in school. Only the very basic of events which occurred. They do try to cram too much in a two-hour film really as it was a lot to take in during the film.
I think Whitaker’s performance is what makes this film better than what it actually is as he really does have brilliant screen presence and you care about his character. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him at times as well, he just had that edge about him that you felt for him. Especially with his son as he only cared about him not getting hurt.
So maybe this film isn’t exactly what you are expecting, but I am sure Oscar buzz will be around performances from Whitaker and Winfrey!