As a viewer who tries to keep up with what is going on in the film community, you sometimes see debuts at festivals to massive acclaim. It seems initially the production might have benefited from critic bait elements. The Naturalism Paradox has been discussed on this blog previously and it remains likely the best example of one of these factors. Other times films can retain some elements that might hold more favour with critics but still have a certain level of appeal with audiences regardless. Regina Kings visual adaptation of Kemp Powers play One Night in Miami is an excellent example. It imagines a meeting in 1963 Miami between four black icons of the period ( Cassius Clay, Malcolm X Jim Brown and Sam Cooke.)Kingsley Ben-Adir Eli Goree, Leslie Odom Jr and Aldis Hodge deliver phenomenal performances in the central roles.
The pieces stage origins from that very straight forward synopsis should be obvious. However, the blend of reality and fiction inherent in the premise means the film avoids the pitfalls of overtly employing the Naturalism Paradox throughout. There is plenty of discussions related to the black experience and the roles these figures have in employing those platforms as celebrities of colour during this time. This could come across as attempting to give the material a sense of automatic weight purely on the themes discussed. A certain element of this that is inherent to the premise The refreshing thing about One Night In Miami is how fresh, zippy and engaging the whole thing feels. Powers dialogue leaps off the page and it’s delivered very effectively thanks to four extraordinarily strong central performances. No doubt it has already been overanalysed by the sort of watcher inclined to do that with absolutely everything they consume in media. By grounding the script in character interactions and banter it can be enjoyed purely on the level of a series of engaging conversations between the four central figures. The creative team doesn’t set out to do a huge deal beyond that. The dialogue and performances remain so strong that this is not a problem.
The film could be argued as critic bait in some circles but it’s the sort of work that does hold potential mainstream appeal. If Covid wasn’t a factor Amazon may well have decided to give it a theatrical window and a big marketing push. Instead, it now takes its place as potentially Amazons best original film. Funny sharp, engaging and expertly performed. In an ideal world, the film has a long future ahead of it beyond this year’s award circuit.