Movie Review: One Night in Miami… (2020)


Title: One Night in Miami…
Release Date: December 25, 2020
Director: Regina King
Production Company: ABKCO | Snoot Entertainment | Germano Studios | Hit Factory | Capital Studios
Summary/Review:

On February 25, 1964, four of the most famous Black American of the 1960s met in Miami following a heavyweight title bout: Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), who had just won the heavyweight title and would later be known as Muhammad Ali, Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), singer/songwriter Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom, Jr.), and football star Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). The meeting really occurred, and this film depicts what they might have talked about.

Each of the characters is struggling with something. Malcolm X is planning to leave the Nation of Islam and start his organization (and hoping to bring Cassius with him), Clay is planning to publicly announce his conversion to Islam but also doesn’t seem ready to put drinking and philandering behind him, Cooke is still smarting over bombing in front of an all-white audience at the Copacabana, and Brown is considering leaving the NFL to star in movies.  The main conflict of the film is between Malcolm X and Cooke, over whether Cooke is pandering to white audiences (Malcom’s view) or establishing economic independence for Black artists (Cooke’s view).

The movie is great in showing these four men who are larger than life in their public personas having moments of intimacy and vulnerability.  There’s also some great humor.  Who knew that Malcolm X’s idea of a party involved eating vanilla ice cream? All four of the actors are phenomenal in their roles and should’ve shared a Best Actor award.

The film is based on a play of the same name by Kemp Powers, and Regina King’s direction of the film retains a lot of theatricality which I think works to the films advantage. Kemp also plays around with the timeline in the script and in his screenplay adaptation, so it can be a bit frustrating if you know history to hear the characters referring to things that hadn’t happened yet and ignoring things that did.  But it’s important to understand that Kemp is using these real life characters in a fictionalized account to depict different aspects of being Black in America.

Rating: ****

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