Rustin (2023)
November 17, 2023 6:33 AM - Subscribe

Activist Bayard Rustin faces racism and homophobia as he helps change the course of Civil Rights history by orchestrating the 1963 March on Washington.

This is a biopic of a little-known figure - Bayard Rustin, who coordinated the March on Washington for Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin was also living as an openly gay man at a time when it was rather risky to do so.

Rustin premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2023. It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 13, 2023. The film was released in select theaters on November 3, 2023 and premieres worldwide on Netflix today.

The Obamas are part of the production team.

This is the first starring role for Emmy-winning and TONY-nominated actor Colman Domingo, and reunites him with George C. Wolfe, who directs (and who directed him in 2020's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom). Some early viewers are already adding Domingo to their Best Actor Oscar nomination predictions.
posted by EmpressCallipygos (6 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Haven't seen it yet, but only because I am at work right now; the second I get out I am going to be running home and firing it up on Netflix because SQUEEEEEEEE MY MAN COLMAN IS STARRING IN A MOVIE AND EVERYONE SAYS IT'S AWESOME YAAAAAAAAAAAAY
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:34 AM on November 17

This is the reason I re-upped Netflix this month; thanks for the reminder that it's out now!
posted by mediareport at 7:48 AM on November 17

....So I watched and then slept on it before commenting.

....It....could have had a better script. I have to agree with most of the reviews I've read, all of which state that the script itself is pretty "meh" - kind of didactic, kind of preachy. Lots of scenes of other people standing around and looking on adoringly as Rustin does something "Inspirational".

But - all the reviews also say that even with a bum script, Colman is awesome, and his performance is the best part of the movie. And - yeah. I've known for 20 years that Colman is a fantastic actor (and one hell of a nice guy), and one of the great joys of my life has been having a front row seat to watching other people discover him and watching him respond to how things have grown for him.

So this strikes me as kind of like what happened with Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody - the movie itself was pretty hero-worshippy, but his part in it stood out.

(Also: people are pointing out that Audra McDonald should have had way more to do and Chris Rock was miscast, and I concur.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:26 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]

I liked it, despite the moments when the script was heavy-handed and overly didactic (or, as the LA Times put it, "the film’s occasional inelegance"). While I wish it had been a somewhat sharper and more complex film I also think the relative straighforwardness would make it a great movie to watch with older kids, especially queer kids.

The emotional arc of the King-Rustin friendship was done really well and gave the movie extra weight along with the historical stuff. It hits some of the important political and personal beats about the March and the weeks before, doesn't shy away from the infighting and grudges between various civil rights icons, and honors the astonishing amount of work that went into overcoming the obstacles Rustin and pals faced. That final scene, with Rustin watching the others go off to the White House while he started cleaning up the trash from the march, was great.

It's not as wonderfully made a film as the director and Domingo's previous work in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (which: amazing), but it flows well and is nicely shot and edited. The acting is top-notch (with the exception of the odd casting of Chris Rock, which I agree doesn't really work) and Colman Domingo is excellent as he carries almost all of the film. I'm not convinced the invented preacher love interest storyline added a whole lot, but it didn't get in the way too much. Overall, a fairly standard biopic about a very un-standard person, and worth watching.
posted by mediareport at 9:10 PM on November 30

That final scene, with Rustin watching the others go off to the White House while he started cleaning up the trash from the march, was great.

See, that was exactly the scene I was thinking of when I said "Rustin does something inspirational while other people look on adoringly". Rustin watched the other LEADERS go off to the White House and started picking up trash, but then the camera showed you a bunch of the other organizers just watching him pick up trash with admiring smiles on their faces. I would have preferred it greatly if he stopped to look over at them and say something like "what are you just standing there for, get a bag and get to work" or something. Especially since it feels like the kind of thing the Rustin we'd been introduced to actually might have said.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:28 AM on December 1 [1 favorite]

Aw, but he was so heartbroken in that moment - fully aware, as they all were, that he deserved to be in that meeting with Kennedy, but also feeling sharply the painful stain of his homosexuality. But ok, you're right; your ending would have been somewhat stronger for him.

I won't argue the point too much; there were lots of instances where your take is on target. I think I'd just given myself over to the sappiness by the end, but I definitely teared up at that scene, and at the earlier emotional climax where the civil rights kids "looked on adoringly" when MLK told the world on TV that he was standing by Rustin even after Strom Thurmond's attack about his Pasadena public sex arrest. I'm a sucker for that stuff, I guess.
posted by mediareport at 9:32 AM on December 1

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