The Best of Enemies | Salt Lake City Weekly
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  Rated PG-13 · 133 minutes · 2019

Historical drama
If there’s anyone who could navigate the treacherous territory of a story about people on opposite sociopolitical poles finding common ground, it’s probably not a first-time writer/director. Veteran producer Robin Bissell takes on the fact-based story of tensions in Durham, N.C. ca. 1971 over the prospect of public school integration, with a mediator (Babou Ceesay) holding town meeting sessions co-chaired by civil-rights activist Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and local KKK leader C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell). Bissell skirts at least some of the potential very-fine-people-on-both-sides pitfalls, leaning into the lead performances—with Rockwell essentially revisiting all the “potentially redeemable racist” notes from his Three Billboards turn—to do the heavy lifting. But if the upshot is how these two people become improbable friends, there’s virtually no significant screen time between them, and Bissell doesn’t know how to give Atwater an arc beyond “maybe don’t be so unyielding in hating racists,” which feels more than a little “yikes.” A few skillfully directed sequences can’t overcome a narrative foundation that doesn’t know how to handle any topic thornier than “racism is bad.”
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Director: Robin Bissell
Producer: Danny Strong, Fred Bernstein, Matt Berenson, Robin Bissell, Dominique Telson, Tobey Maguire, Matthew Plouffe, Rick Jackson and Jeremiah Samuels
Cast: Taraji Henson, Sam Rockwell, Babou Ceesay, Nick Searcy, Wes Bentley, Anne Heche, Bruce McGill, John Gallagher Jr., Nicholas Logan, Gilbert Brown, Caitlin Mehner and Dolan Wilson

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