One Night in Miami... ★★★★½

I was prepared to love Regina King's directorial debut One Night in Miami, an adaptation of the supposed conversation that occurred between four desperate figures of black success and liberation with playwright Kemp Powers expanding his play into a loquacious historical biopic. Was that sentence a run-on, but you didn't care? Then you may love this movie. The four men unite in Malcolm X's (Kingsley Ben-Adir) hotel room following Muhammad Ali né Cassius Clay's (Eli Goree) world championship win. They are joined by Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr) and NFL superstar Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) in a racially charged discussions of achieving "black power." All four men are memorable. Kingsley Ben-Adir presents a stately Malcolm X at a crossroad of allegiances. Leslie Odom Jr acts his ass off through the biggest journey through discovering the lack of beauty in pandering art's success. Aldis Hodge and Eli Goree take a stoic Brown and jubilant, youthful Cash through the moods of Malcolm X and Sam Cooke. Joaquina Kalukango deserves praise as Betty X--Malcolm's wife--in her brief snippets of concern for her husband, likely the only person more paranoid than he. The film's introduction gives you the tempo for this movie; a one-through-four punch of racial issues we still face and the lessons to be learned from decades of struggle.

There is enough within their construction that I look forward to revisiting; this is the best kind of adaptation in expanding the historical context for an audience who isn't greeted with a playbill and audio-visual precursors to a stage play. Theater is meant to be (variably) accessible, except that short runs, budget shortcuts, and pandemics demolish the art form. Thank goodness for tomes like One Night in Miami for capturing all the goodness within this play (it reminds me of Moonlight in its presentation of the adaptation). It is streaming on Amazon Prime.