TIFF 2020: One Night in Miami… Review

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.

The rise of Regina King continues. After winning an Oscar for her performance in If Beale Street Could Talk, she now is stepping behind the camera to direct her first feature film, One Night in Miami, based on the stage play of the same name. However, directing is not a departure for her thanks to her extensive television directing experience. When it comes to her first feature, she definitely instills a level of care and a gentle touch while telling a period story that is unfortunately still very timely today. Meanwhile, it’s style won’t be for everyone but if anything, its quartet of leading performances are still well worth the price of admission, making it all work.

Just like its source material, One Night in Miami feels like a stage play and perhaps would work better as a play than a feature film. Nevertheless, is a fictional story of one night in Miami in the 1960s involving Muhammad Ali (Goree), Malcolm X (Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Odom Jr.), and Jim Brown (Hodge) as they celebrated Ali’s most recent win against Sonny Liston (Aaron D. Alexander). The film may arguably lack plot, consisting of the interactions and conversations between these four men but despite this, it was still compelling and powerful while also often fun to watch. Meanwhile, the overarching theme was the racial arrest in the middle of the civil right movement as it and their positions within the movement dominated the discourse (they of course played roles in the movement in real life).

Though One Night in Miami could have used some more depth to flesh out its characters, the excellent range of performances across the board were easily the best part of the film with the sharp script, also written by the writer of the stage play, was a close second. Goree, Ben-Adir, Odom Jr., and Hodge as Ali, Malcolm X, Cooke, and Brown all bring plenty of energy in recreating those larger-than-life characters while still giving them humanity. In the end, they were all people who suffered and that pain was there but also hope. While each had their standout moments, no one stood out.

Overall, One Night in Miami won’t be for everyone but as it stands, is a timely character piece that is worth the time.

still courtesy of TIFF

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