"Lee Daniels' The Butler"
RATED: PG-13 (some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking)
DIRECTOR: Lee Daniels
CAST: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo
INFO: The story was inspired by a Washington Post profile of a White House butler written by Wil Haygood, who worked as a copy editor at the Gazette in the 1980s.
"You hear nothing. You see nothing. You only serve." Such are the instructions Cecil Gaines receives as he embarks on his daunting new job at the Eisenhower White House in "Lee Daniels' The Butler."
Of course Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker in a moving, grounded performance that anchors the film and blunts its riskier excesses, hears and sees everything, and that means, over more than three decades on the job, he has a Forrest Gump-like view not only of the White House under seven presidents, but of the long arc of the civil rights struggle in 20th-century America.
Much has been said about this movie's potential future as an Oscar powerhouse. The speculation is natural, especially given its star-studded cast, but it takes away from the more important discussion of its simpler virtues, as an absorbing film that has the potential to teach a new generation (and remind an older one) about these crucial events.