One Night in Miami review round-up: Regina King's directorial debut is a vibrant historical tale tackling issues that are still relevant
One Night in Miami is a take on Kemp Powers' debut play, which finds young boxer Cassius Clay, activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football star Jim Brown hanging out together at a Miami motel
Oscar winner Regina King made her feature directorial debut with the adaptation of Kemp Powers’ play One Night in Miami.
It is the first film directed by an African-American woman to be showcased at the ongoing Venice Film Festival, where it debuted on 7 September. The drama is also set to be screened at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival.
One Night in Miami is a take on Kemp Powers' debut play, which finds young boxer Cassius Clay, activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and football star Jim Brown hanging out together at a Miami motel.
According to Variety, Amazon has already bought the world rights of the drama. In the press event for the festival, King said she had wanted One Night in Miami to be out much later, but the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Live Matter movement expedited its release.
Here are some reviews of the film.
The Wrap: "For a first-timer to tackle a period piece featuring four cultural legends would be impressive enough, more so when said period piece is based on a four-guys-in-a room play that the screen adaptation livens up with musical performance, boxing sequences and massive crowd scenes. King doesn’t just take on these challenges; she succeeds at turning a property with a number of potential wrong turns into a vibrant historical tale tackling issues and controversies that remain tragically relevant nearly 60 years later."
The Hollywood Reporter: "To some extent, One Night in Miami remains high-quality filmed theater. But the conviction and stirring feeling brought to it elevate the material, making this an auspicious feature debut. Here's hoping that King, one of our most consistently excellent screen actors, continues to spread her wings in this direction."
Variety: "One Night in Miami feeds off a moment of transition, and does so movingly. The characters, as presented, are certainly informed by our hindsight view of them — and shadowed by the fact that Malcolm, exactly one year later, would be assassinated (in all likelihood, by forces within the Nation of Islam), and that Sam Cooke would be shot and killed in a motel altercation before the end of 1964. Yet the movie has the shrewdness to live in the present tense."
IndieWire: "King can’t quite kick all of the theatrical inclinations of the film’s source material, though even as its second half moves away from cinematic showiness and more into feeling like a handsomely mounted chamber piece, King finds subtle ways to use the limitations of a single room for great effect. Yes, One Night in Miami often looks like the play it’s based on, but King and her stars make the most of any stage-y limitations, and the filmmaker frequently turns her eye to well-assembled overhead shots and a graceful use of mirrors to keep her many characters in the frame all at once."
The Guardian: "King, cinematographer Tami Reiker and designer Barry Robison mount a vivid, meticulous evocation of the period, with locales including poolsides, sports stadiums and the venues where Cooke sings. But the film is above all an enclosed talking piece for four terrific actors. Perhaps inevitably, Goree’s Clay lights up the screen whenever he talks – revealing the acuteness and sensitivity beneath the showmanship – with Hodge’s Brown as a saturnine, sceptical foil. But the meat of the meet lies in the interplay between Malcolm X and Sam Cooke – not least, perhaps, because we know their deaths were just around the corner. British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir is magnetic as the careworn, austere political leader, evoking the tenderness and well-concealed joie de vivre underneath the severity, while Odom’s Cooke shows self-examination as well as radiant insouciance."
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