Anytime that I see Sam Rockwell is in a film I get excited. At least in my mind, he is one of those actors that is a bit choosy about the roles he takes and will often settle for a stellar supporting role rather than a dumb lead.
His character in this film, which is based on real events, seemed like a real winner - perhaps even Oscar-worthy, but it kind of fizzled with a pretty weak script and a lack of depth in character development. Basically, the film is kind of boring.
As always, i try to avoid spoilers but since this movie is brand new on Netflix, if you prefer to go in completely blind to a film, it would be better to skip my writeup about it
I have to admit that despite the fact that she has been nominated for an Academy Award, I don't recall ever seeing Taraji Henson in anything before. However, i think her depiction of real person, Ann Atwater, outshines everyone else in the cast, including Sam.
Ann Atwater is a civil rights rights activist in North Carolina in the early 70's who is struggling to eliminate segregation in the school system (it's hard to imagine that such a system still existed as late as 1971, but it did.) Sam Rockwell plays the role of C.P. Ellis (again, a real person) who was the leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Durham, North Carolina at the time. Obviously, he is very dead-set on maintaining segregation in schools.
By chance, the two of them, who are on polar opposite sides of the issue of segregation ended up being the co-chairs of a community panel that will eventually be charged with making the decision for the community on the issue of whether or not blacks and whites will attend the same schools in Durham.
I don't know if this was by design or accident, but C.P. and Ann are required to work in close proximity to one another in their office and also at the lunch table. I'm not gonna spoil what happens in these situations, but let's just say that it gets a bit uncomfortable at times.
The real Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis
I don't think you need to be terribly intelligent to be capable of guessing what happens in the end of this film but I am not going to spoil it for you anyway.
That is one part of the problem with this film: Most people can already determine the ending, it is just a question of how it is that we are going to get there. There are some "side quests" along the way, but mostly I think this film suffers from the same thing that many movies do: There really isn't enough material for a 2 hour film, especially when the background information was just a bunch of talking anyway.
from the official Movieclips channel
I still found this movie interesting because the inclusion of the KKK and the lack of civil rights that existed as late as the early 70's is really surprising to me and I'm a little ashamed that I was pretty unaware that it was still so bad just a little while ago. Perhaps there are many others out there that didn't know this as well. That part of it is a real eye-opener for sure. However, for the most part I found myself looking at my phone for a great deal of the events that took place because there is something terribly wrong (in my mind) about the pacing of this film and I think that this has to do with a real lack of source material. Perhaps this is why this film is only being made now.
It has been criticized for turning the situation into a "white knight" story as it focuses almost entirely on C.P's motivations rather than the black community's perspective and after reading that written by someone else, I can definitely see the problem there. This movie is too long so they definitely would have had time to include this perspective as well.
It was a box-office bomb, losing money after marketing was factored in to the budget. While they were no doubt fishing for Oscars with the topic matter and top-billed cast members, this movie is just "OK" and that is about it.