Song of the Day #4,645: ‘Speak Now’ – Leslie Odom Jr.

Best Films of 2020
#4 – One Night in Miami…

In a year of strong ensemble casts, none impressed me more than the quartet at the center of Regina King’s One Night in Miami….

King directs a script by Kemp Powers, based on his own play, about an encounter between four legendary Black icons: Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.). The four men alternately clash and harmonize about their roles and responsibilities in a society that worships them but would never invite them in for dinner.

It’s hard to pick an MVP among the cast, as each actor fully embodies his role and seizes every opportunity to shine. Odom Jr. and Ben-Adir are given the juiciest parts, but Hodge and Goree are equally sublime.

I found myself agreeing with each man’s perspective as they bounced provocative ideas off of each other, a testament to Powers’ commitment to exploring issues in depth and not putting the “right” words in any one character’s mouth.

While the focus on dialogue and the limited settings make it clear One Night in Miami… started as a play, King does a splendid job staging the action and expanding the world of the movie. An extended opening sequence puts each man’s position in context before they end up together in a Miami motel room. A flashback to a Sam Cooke performance is a highlight, as is the film’s moving ending.

This is the second straight debut film by a woman director in my top five. I hope this is a sign that women filmmakers are receiving opportunities they hadn’t in the past, and standout work like this will be even more common in the future.

[Verse 1]
Listen, listen
While the storm in your heart is raging
Listen, listen, listen
Listen, listen
To the echoes of the martyrs praying
Listen, listen, listen

[Pre-Chorus]
Listen, brothers and sisters
Listen, listen, listen
I swear we’ll never find a way to where we’re going all alone
Don’t take your eyes off the road

[Chorus]
Can you hear the bells ring out?
Speak now
Speak now
Can you hear the angels singin’ loud?
Speak now
Speak now

[Verse 2]
Listen, listen
To the message of hope in the whispers of ghosts
Listen, listen, listen
Listen, listen
For the children will grow on the seeds that we sew
They listen, listen, listen

[Pre-Chorus]
Listen, listen
Brothers and sisters
Listen, listen, listen
I swear we’ll never find our way to where we’re going, all alone
(On our own)
Don’t take your eyes off the road

[Chorus]
Can you hear the bells ring out?
Speak now
Speak now
Can you hear the angels singin’ loud?
Speak now
Speak now

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,645: ‘Speak Now’ – Leslie Odom Jr.

  1. Peg says:

    I LOVED this movie. If it wins the best picture and director I will be thrilled. I always enjoy movies that were plays first and this one just shines. All the actors are terrific. One of my favorites this year!!

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    The play-like quality of the vast majority of the scenes felt slow to me, though I confess I was fighting off sleepiness. Overall though, I agree this was a collection of very strong performances.

Leave a Reply to Peg Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.