Review: One Night in Miami

It’s not too often an intelligent film comes our way — one that suggests that somebody somewhere actually took the time to give us a story that examines the human condition in a clear, elegant, and elevating way. One Night in Miami is just such a film.

When I first heard the premise of the story — four famous guys (Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, Malcom X, and Sam Cooke) wind up in a hotel room in Florida — I rolled my eyes. Another mindless Hollywood gimmick, banking on a celebrity story to boost ticket sales. The plot would be silly and contrived. Jokes would be familiar and lame. There would be girls and hijinx galore.

Boy was I wrong. It’s based on an actual incident and not Hollywood gimmick.

Maybe because One Night in Miami started its life on the stage, the film is as rich with dialog as any Edward Albee or Eugene O’Neill vehicle. Since it was a stage play first, you would assume it would lack movement, locations, or action. It’s very actiony in the beginning as we meet the protagonists: Mr. Clay is battling Henry Cooper, Sam Cooke is at the Copa, Jim Brown faces Jim Crow on a plantation in Georgia, and Malcolm X is at home with wife, Betty, contemplating their relationship with the Nation of Islam. How did these four men from vastly different worlds even know each other, let alone spend a night in a motel room eating ice cream and discussing the plight of Black America?

Once beyond the opening action scenes, the film settles down to eloquent and provocative discourse. The crux of the evening is a heated argument between Malcom and Sam. These men were friends. One wonders how? Malcom was serious and a crusader. Sam found success in the fluffy world of pop. Could they resolve their differences and come to a truth they could both see?

It’s a grand presentation; the film is a triumph. Kudos to Kemp Powers for a great script, and to Regina King for her directorial debut. The pacing is spot on despite the fact that this is basically a stage play on wheels; it never drags, and it is, in fact — Dare I say it? — exciting.

I look forward to seeing more work from both of these highly talented individuals.

Keep up the good work!

—Sue Lange/Producer-Writer LE BON CHEF

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