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This eavesdropper’s telling of landmarks in 20th-century US history is “inspired by” White House butler Eugene Allen, who served every president from Eisenhower to Reagan. Here, the fictitious Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) puts his faith in his white leaders while his estranged son joins the Black Panthers.
Cecil’s acceptance of servitude contrasts starkly with scenes of black people being segregated, beaten and killed – though 12 Years a Slave it ain’t.
Nor is there much of the grit of Daniels’ Precious (2009). Despite Cecil’s belated recognition that “America has turned a blind eye” to its wrongs, that message is ultimately sugar-coated by a closing swell of patriotic schmaltz.