‘The Butler’ tells a gripping story of triumph

This summer — this month, in fact — the nation is going to remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered 50 years ago to a crowd of about 250,000 people spread across the Washington, D.C. Mall.

It’s good, then, to welcome a gripping film that premiers Friday. Its title is simple: “The Butler.” Its story is complex tapestry of struggle, violence, heartache and finally, triumph.

It’s rare that I await films with such anticipation. I hope to get to the theater this weekend to see it.

“The Butler” tells the story of an African-American man who served eight presidents of the United States, starting with Dwight Eisenhower. Forrest Whitaker plays the title role. But the cast is full of stellar stars: Robin Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Cusack, Jane Fonda and Alan Rickman, to name just a few.

The film likely will hit a nerve with many who watch it. It tells of a family’s struggle against those who would deny them their basic rights as American citizens. It also portrays the role that “domestics” had in serving people at the highest level of power.

Perhaps the most interesting casting might be that of Jane Fonda portraying Nancy Reagan. Fonda at one time was a noted anti-Vietnam War activist who spoke very angrily against the policies favored by Ronald Reagan, Nancy’s husband; Ronald Reagan was governor of California during the Vietnam War and he became a noted “hawk” who favored the U.S. involvement in that conflict. But now, all these years later, Fonda is portraying the former first lady in what amounts to a bit part in a major film. And she speaks with pride at being able to carry off this portrayal.

Oh, how times do change.

This is an important film that will be shown at an important time.

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