It’s never good when closing-credit title-cards suggest a movie more interesting than the one we’ve just watched for over two hours.
Add The Best of Enemies to the ever-growing list of stories that end where they should begin.
By this point, we’ve seen enough racist-conversion tales like that between C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell, doing too little) and Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson, doing too much) that they’ve basically become the prototypical American parable. Even when executed well — which, rest assured dear reader, The Best of Enemies assuredly isn’t — the morals of these real-life fantasies (is there any doubt Tinsel Town tinsels them up?) can usually only speak to the racial politics of their bygone eras; too much has changed between then and now for their regurgitated platitudes — no matter how true they may be — to substantively converse with the pressing issues of today.
By starting The Best of Enemies where it finishes — with the cementing of their unlikely friendship, a symbol of hope for any cross-racial peace coalition — we could’ve tracked how this odd couple navigated the shifting tides in racial politics between the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter (which tend to be the primary focus of Hollywood when it comes to such stories nowadays, as if how we got from one to the other isn’t just as crucial). They may appear to be on the same side when the credits roll, but that doesn’t mean they’re destined always to be on the same side of the debates that have raged in America for decades — that’s the sort of drama that would actually engage us, by engaging with us.
Then again, that type of narrative wouldn’t conform to the kumbaya fable The Best of Enemies strives to tell, which is kind of the problem with such yarns: to work, they require a willful reduction of real-world nuance.
Stray Take: Not that it makes much of a difference, but the soundtrack is noticeably helter-skelter.