There has been an interesting resurgence of old-fashioned stage-to-screen adjustments over the past year.
It is a common criticism that screen adaptations of classic stage plays tend to be “Stagey” rather than traditional “Cinematic.” After all, many plays are written to play out the strengths of theater as a medium that revolves around core characters and delivers monologues on standing sets on an intimate scale. One of the most common criticisms of movies like doubt is that they do not fully translate the material so it is optimized for work in the language of cinema. As a result, some adaptations will attempt to obscure its theatrical origins.
However, there have been a number of high profile stage performances over the past year that have been adapted for the film without being ashamed of their roots. Hamilton was not a conventional cinematic adaptation of the hit musical, but rather a recording of a performance that was composed in an attempt to recreate the experience of watching the show in a theater. On Netflix The guys in the band and Ma Rainey’s black bottom made no effort to disguise her theatrical roots. Even Ryan Murphys The prom adopted the hyperrealism of Broadway.
One night in Miami is another example of this trend, with playwright Kemp Powers adapting his own game for the screen. Director Regina King never tries to make One night in Miami seem particularly cinematic or epic instead of focusing on what made Powers’ game a success in the first place. One night in Miami is a penetrating and biting snapshot of an ongoing struggle in progressive minority circles, fueled by sharp dialogue and a series of victories. It may be a little too stage-conscious on its own, but it’s still a pleasure.
That little resurgence in “Stagey” Theater-to-movie adaptations are interesting. In recent years, the much-discussed death of mid-budget adult film has come to an end when blockbusters colonized the release schedule. The last studio to make a serious attempt at producing adult content on a budget was Fox, with its year-end releases like Widows, Bad times at El Royale and Ad Astra. At the time, the strategy worked Ford versus FerrariFox has already been eaten by Disney watching its library consolidate.
For the past ten years, the “Stage adaptation of a play” has been largely dwarfed as an award winner by a new generation of low-budget American indies. Of course, occasionally like movies fences break through, but they tend to be overshadowed by rather low-key indie tariffs Moonlight or Nomad land. In that sense, the return of these types of Oscar nominees came as a surprise. In fact, it feels like a bit of nostalgia, especially given that The guys in the band and Ma Rainey’s black bottom are both based on older pieces.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that these older prestige pieces are available through the streaming services: The guys in the band and Ma Rainey’s black bottom on Netflix and One night in Miami on amazon. However, the return of this type of older image of prestige is also reminiscent of the return of the serious “Problem” Film that was popular in the 1990s got a slight improvement with the Deathrow drama Mercy only and the traditional courtroom drama gets a little update with The Chicago Trial 7.
What is interesting about this little resurgence of old-fashioned stage adaptations is similar to what was interesting about the revival of old-fashioned, themed film. There is greater awareness of the perspectives involved. In particular, the perspectives that were historically excluded from such productions in the past. After all Mercy only questions the idea of the death sentence through the prism of racial justice, which was largely missing in the meditations of the nineties on this subject The chamber or Dead man goes.
More to the point The guys in the band is a piece from the sixties. It was even adapted for the screen by William Friedkin. However, when you see the game restaged and re-released and Netflix celebrate a certain run, it feels like an overdue account is being paid off. Similarly, August Wilson is one of the great American playwrights, and it’s amazing that it took so long to like his major works fences or Ma Rainey’s black bottom can be customized for the screen.
To be fair One night in Miami is a much younger piece that premiered in 2013. However, the film is set against the tumultuous backdrop of the mid-1960s and feels a lot like a celebration of a story that has long been covered up or overlooked. The film focuses on a meeting between four extremely influential African American personalities whose lives have overlapped at different stages in their careers.
Aldis Hodge plays the footballer Jim Brown, who turns into acting to make better use of his fame while remaining an outspoken civil rights advocate. Leslie Odom Jr. plays the singer Sam Cooke, who has remained largely silent on civil rights issues while promoting and enriching black artists. Eli Goree plays Cassius Clay, the future boxer world champion whose career is on the rise and who faces a series of character and career-defining decisions. Kingsley Ben-Adir plays Malcolm X, who finds himself in the middle of a leadership battle for the Nation of Islam.
These are four very different figures with four very different (yet overlapping) perspectives One night in Miami understands the appeal of playing characters against each other. Brown is a more polished and skilled athlete than Clay, and as a result, he is more able to cope with the inevitable arguments between Malcolm and Cooke. Malcolm believes that equality can only really be achieved through confrontation, while Cooke advocates a more subtle and subversive approach to promoting the cause.
The debates that boil through One night in Miami Resonance beyond the specific environment of the film and reflects frequent arguments between those advocating progressive causes. The great heated confrontation between Malcolm and Cooke over which of their approaches actually is to reach It’s all the kind of argument that is often made on social media about left-wing parties like the British Labor Party or the Democratic Party.
One night in Miami works in large part because it understands that these arguments are best understood as debates between people who have a common cause and are pushing in the same direction, even when they disagree on methods. Finally, as Cassius points out, the four men have no choice but to “Being there for eachother” than four men sharing a different perspective, all of them “Young, black, fair, famous, not apologetic.” As heated as their arguments may be, they all agree.
However, this unit does not cancel out the important differences between them. These four men may work on a similar level and strive for the same things, but they come from different places. “You know we are far from doing the same” Brown reminds Malcolm at one point when Malcolm argues that the African American experience is monolithic. In fact, Brown even wonders who the target audience for Malcolm’s rhetoric is and where that comes from. “Malcolm, is it about proving something to black people?”
It is an interesting and nuanced interpretation of a well-known argument that benefits from four well-defined protagonists. Powers’ script is sharp and efficiently describes the perspectives of the four main actors. The cast is consistently strong, and each of the four main actors brings a lot of charisma to their roles. Goree is surprisingly vulnerable as the young man who would later become Muhammad Ali. Odom takes advantage of the same frustration that fueled his performance Hamilton as Cooke. Ben-Adir is alternately steadfast and vulnerable like Malcolm X.
King never tries to obscure or distract from the stage nature of the material, which is a wise choice. There’s nothing in there One night in Miami As distracting as George C. Wolff’s attempts to stage a distracting length, it takes him to tumble through tight sets Ma Rainey’s black bottom. Instead, King trusts the script and cast to carry the film and works to serve both. King displays remarkable self-confidence and reluctance to handle the material, impressive for a director in her first feature film – albeit with a variety of television experiences.
There is a lovable warmth and a humanism that prevails One night in MiamiA sense of empathy and compassion for each of the four leads despite their disagreements – and a sense of empathy and compassion that they share with one another. Additionally, the film is structured to emphasize the way in which the four men influenced each other. Arguments there are not controversial but convincing. Cooke may resist Malcolm’s criticism, but he takes her on board. Cassius may wonder if his commitment is worth it, but he makes a commitment anyway.
This level of nuance is different One night in Miami from many comparable feel-good dramas about racial relationships. At some point Cooke dreams of going to Hollywood because there “There is no Green Paper telling you where you can and cannot go.” (He doubles by adding “They’re just disasters out there in Hollywood on the screen.”) Of course, Cooke is obviously referring to real life “green book” for African American travelers, but it plays like a shot over the bow of the banal feel-good Oscar winner, Green book.
One night in Miami is maybe a little too conventional for its own good, feels a little too much like a direct adaptation of a play instead of working as a standalone film. This is a minor complaint, however. Otherwise it’s an unforgettable night.