A SIMPLE, sweet and crowd- pleasing drama inspired by the life of Eugene Allen, who served as head butler at the White House for 34 years. He is represented here by the character Cecil Gaines ( played by Forest Whitaker), who becomes a silent witness to the best and worst decisions made by eight consecutive US presidents. In other hands, Gaines might have wound up as Forrest Gump in a dinner suit. However, Whitaker’s graceful restraint keeps proceedings on an even keel throughout. The cast of The Butler is diverse, to say the very least. Some of the presidents work ( Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson). Some do not ( John Cusack as Richard Nixon, James Marsden as JFK). Some of the most credible and moving acting comes from TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey as Gaines’ wife, a recovering alcoholic. Not the most subtle of movies overall, but does have some valid insights into the evolution of modern race relations in America.