The Best of Enemies (2019) Poster

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I'm deeply moved
Gordon-1120 August 2019
This film tells the story of two opposing parties in the racially segregated society decades ago.

The story is captivating and beautifully told. It tells a process of increasing mutual understanding, thereby reaching a groundbreaking consensus. It is a thought provoking and truly inspiring tale. I am deeply moved by it.
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Fabulous acting
Calicodreamin16 July 2021
A moving and true story brilliantly brought to light by Rockwell and Henson. The characters are well cast and well acted, the leads have great chemistry, and the story is moving. It hits some deep topics in an easy to handle way and ends on a hopeful note, which I appreciate. Love seeing the real people at the end.
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a feel good look at a moment in history
ferguson-65 April 2019
Greetings again from the darkness. It's easy to complain (and many do) about how Hollywood usually explores racism. Sometimes the stories seem a bit over-simplistic, as with THE HELP, GREEN BOOK, and HIDDEN FIGURES; however, rather than criticize, perhaps we should be thankful for any effort to prod. Often getting the conversation started is the best first step. That's really the message from Robin Bissell's directorial debut of a script he adapted from Osha Gray Davidson's 1996 book "The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South". Mr. Bissell has previously been Executive Producer on THE HUNGER GAMES and SEABISCUIT, and Mr. Davidson's book was previously adapted for a stage production.

Based on a true story that took place in 1971 Durham, North Carolina, the film portrays the remarkable events that led to the integration of public schools and a stranger-than-fiction friendship. Taraji P Henson stars as Ann Atwater, an African-American activist and community organizer, while Sam Rockwell co-stars as Claiborne "CP" Ellis, the Exalted Cyclops (basically the Chapter President) of the Ku Klux Klan. It seems the previous stranger-than-fiction description is aptly applied here when an aggressive black woman known as "Roughhouse Annie" can effectively sway the long ingrained beliefs of a KKK leader, and forge a friendship that would last 3 decades.

A school fire that partially gutted the elementary school attended by the black children in the community was the proverbial spark that kicked off the chain of events. When the white folks refused to share their school, the black children were forced to hold classes in the areas least affected by the fire ... while demolition and renovation was being carried out. This led to the NAACP getting involved, which resulted in a judge ordering a "Charrette" - a blend of a committee and a civic debate - to determine how the community would move forward. Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay, FREE FIRE, 2016) was charged with organizing the Charrette, and he named Ms. Alexander and Mr. Ellis as co-chairs. Keep in mind this was 17 years after Brown vs. Board of Education ruled in favor of school desegregation, but many pockets of the south were slow to come around.

The story structure offers synchronicity between the lives of Alexander and Ellis, as they each struggle with poverty and family challenges. It's just one of the ways of trying to show they were more alike than different, and much more of the time is devoted to how the transition slowly occurs for Ellis. Of course, even though each side dislikes the other, it's Ellis whose eyes must be opened as he clings to the only way of life he's known. Because of this, Mr. Rockwell has the meatier role, but it's Ms. Henson (and her fat suit) who draws the most laughs and nods of approval from the audience.

As you would expect, it's a strutting Mr. Rockwell and boisterous Ms. Henson that dominate the film, however, some tremendous actors fill the supporting roles: Wes Bentley (as a Confederate soldier hat-wearing Klansman), Anne Heche (as Ellis' wife), Nick Searcy, Bruce McGill, John Gallagher Jr, and Caitlin Mehner.

The film is a most entertaining (though a bit lightweight) look at an historic chain of events, and it's right up there with a black cop infiltrating the Klan in Spike Lee's 2018 film BLACKkKlansman for believe-it-or-not points. In 1980, Studs Terkel conducted an interview with Mr. Ellis, and it's worth a read to gain a bit more insight into a man that truly changed his evil ways. The ending of this film leans heavily on the "feel-good" and "can't we all just get along" approach, and maybe that's not such a bad thing. The end credit sequence features some tremendous clips of the real Ms. Alexander (who died in 2016) and Mr. Ellis (who died in 2005), making it a bit easier to understand how the two opposites connected for the greater good.
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School desegregation, 1971 Durham, N.C.
TxMike15 September 2019
My wife and I watched this movie at home on BluRay from our public library. The disc has some interesting "extras" including taped interviews of each of the two main characters in their later years.

This story is factual, about real people. It was an important chapter in the long road towards eliminating discrimination based on skin color, a journey far from being completed. It was 1971 in Durham, N.C. and even though laws had already been implemented to eliminate desegregation in schools the city officials and the KKK had thus far prevented it. When a fire at the all-black middle school caused a big problem the issue came to a head.

The two main characters, two people who initially despised each other, are Taraji P. Henson as black activist Ann Atwater and Sam Rockwell as local businessman and KKK leader C.P. Ellis. An interesting outfall of the events in 1971 was their becoming good friends for the rest of their lives.

The movie is uncomfortable most of the time, as it should be. This was a very serious time, but in the end it shows that hatred and prejudice is a result of fear and lack of understanding, usually on all sides.

A very well made and well acted story.
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He'll get used to it.
nogodnomasters8 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In 1971 C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell-ignore the pierced ear) was the president of the Klan in Durham, N.C. He blocked everything the black community was attempting to accomplish with the help of a white town council. Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson and not Octavia Spencer) is a leader of the black community struggling to survive. A school fire forces the issue of school integration on the community. Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay) is called in to have a charrette, a form of arbitration, to decide the issue. People on the opposite side of the issue are forced together to come to a conclusion.

The word "Committee" is misspelled. Perhaps by design. In Augusta, Ga. the city council still says "edumacation" instead of education.

The film was well acted and the script was well written. I was confused (and still confused) as to why this had to happen. All schools were forced to integrate from the 1955 ruling so it was inevitable. A win for the segregationists would have just have been a delay. This was never mentioned. What is interesting is that the phrase "Know your enemy." The Klan admitted they knew nothing about black people. It was Ann's knowledge of C.P. Chase's family that gave her the upper hand. Heartwarming, inspirational, and timely.

Guide: No swearing, sex, or nudity.
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The Best of Enemies
JoBloTheMovieCritic20 July 2019
8/10 - great Civil Rights biopic, but what really makes this film stand out is Taraji P. Henson's phenomenal performance
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Any film with Sam Rockwell is good with me
jokeritt21 June 2019
Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell were tremendous in this film. Sammy has always been a true actor and steals the scenes.
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On opposite sites
kosmasp4 July 2021
I don't know if I live long enough to see certain things change. Or evolve to a degree where movies like this one seem far removed from reality. While some may think, come on it isn't even close to that right now - and they may be right for most of America ... there still is an underlying and even worse, some systemic racism left - the previous administration was more than a perfect example for that backwards kind of thinking.

But away from current day politics and back to what this real life story is telling us. To think that someone thought it would be a good idea to put a Klan leader and an (colored) activist together ... may sound like a far stretch. But the movie makes you buy it. It's trying to appease both sides while not really moving forward much ... or will that happen? Because progress cannot be stopped and all that ... I'd say the movie is predictable, but still quite well done to say the least.

Racism and discrimination exist all over the world. And maybe you are not into watching a movie that has this highlighted - it's your right to chose whatever movie you want to watch. Just try not to be a cynic about it (I know I tend to go that way as defense mechanism, so things that are obviously wrong do not affect me as much ... but they still exist, whether I see them and acknowledge them or not ...)
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A horrible, yet beautiful story.
richbclarke27 April 2021
I'm never surprised by Sam Rockwell; always a performance to admire, and this movie is no different. Taraji P. Henson is without doubt the star here and she plays her character beautifully. Both leads drew me in to their individual "story" and, knowing this was based on a true story, I found it both deeply upsetting and equally uplifting. A story that was very well told throughout and supported by a super cast that had me enthralled from the start. An aspect of humanity that is thoroughly abhorrent told by two sides simultaneously and told with a passion that can only be commended.
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Worth your time
jaynekranc15 April 2019
I actually had friends puzzled that I wanted to see this, because they told me it was a movie just for black people. It's worth seeing just to understand exactly how dumb that kind of comment is. The performances are outstanding. I love "based on true events" films anyway, and understand their limitations, so maybe I"m biased, but I think this is an important film..The sets captured that small town feel in the past south perfectly. Is it heavy handed at times? Sure, but it really shows how both characters changed their minds. I"m sorry it's not doing better. I missed seeing it last weekend and this weekend there were only two showings of it at my theater and expect it to be gone next week.
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Kirpianuscus18 November 2020
More important than the real facts, remains the fine performances and the powerful message. It is more than a past page or portrait of steps of desagregation of schools, transformation of a man or just image of racial problems in 1971 and profound change of attitude, beginning of a friendship but, for our time, remains an useful warning. So, just useful.
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veerle-3319229 April 2021
I was expecting something like hidden figures or the help. But it wasn't. Maybe because the story isn't told but showed. I disagree with previous reviews who say that the class struggle of Ellis or his struggle with the clan's hypocrisy is ignored. It isn't talked about but the outstanding performance of Rockwell doesn't need talk, with one look he says more than with a Shakespeare monologue. The setting created by Bissel speaks for itself too. Beautifull story that left me in tears of joy.
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Captivating Messages and Storytelling
rannynm6 April 2019
The Best of Enemies has some truly captivating messages and storytelling, but its presentation of the segregation debate can get lost with the lack of background insight. Still, the excellent performances here carry over some of the weaker writing. Anyone interested in docu-dramas might want to check this out.

The film centers on the most unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson), an outspoken civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), a local Ku Klux Klan leader. The two reluctantly battle over the desegregation of schools in Durham, NC during the one of the nation's racially-charged turning points. C.P. slowly feels drawn towards Atwater's commitment to her people and becomes a frenemy. Can love trump hate?

First, Taraji P. Henson, is fantastic as Ann Atwater with her acerbic nature, but heartfelt fight for the poor and oppressed. She respectfully handles the rebellious, yet kind-hearted nature of the real-life figure. But, the drama's center comes from Sam Rockwell, as C.P. Ellis, who is my favorite character despite playing an initially despicable figure. His redemption is naturally done, and the messages never feel forced here. The two really work well off each other, and their chemistry is hilarious to watch. Babou Ceesay, as Bill Riddick, gives another great performance with his contributions to the segregation debate being another interesting learning experience.

Robin Bussell spectacularly writes and directs with the events presented in a clear, chronological order. But the pacing can be lost amongst this, as the film really stalls when juggling multiple real-life figures. It's the individual moments that stick, because she knows how to write human and relatable characters. The racial tension feels real here, as did the moments of unity. My favorite scene is the final verdict as the scene is filmed so well, leaving the audience unnerved at each person's decision. Still, it's C. P.'s monologue that sells the scene, which I just can't spoil. Seeing is believing. However, in addition to many moments of rocky pacing, the movie's focus on other characters, especially Atwater, is quite minimal and scattershot at times. C. P.'s development is forefront and that's understandable given he is the most complex character. I would have loved to see more personal looks at other characters.

The message of this film is that love is the greatest asset in any debate. We can all learn to reconcile our difference and just love each other. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 due to mature themes and racist language.

Reviewed by Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.
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Absolutely Brilliant!!
cjmoviebuff30 June 2019
I loved this movie, had no idea what to expect as I knew very little about the story but it was an incredible story.

The acting was fabulous and the characters represented beautifully.
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ops-5253518 June 2019
Basiclly i tried to write a review some minutes ago but when i was trying to write1971 the ''1'' key hung up and in my eager fight to loose the darn button , my well written and bragging review of this film all of a sudden went away so ill try again.

its just a marvellous drama btween black and white, integration vs. segregation, in a heavily racial divided southern usa anno 1971.

its a film that will become an iconic classic, due to all the love,all the hate, all the anger, all the warmth, and all the words instead of brutal action. its a great schoolbook chapter about u.s. integration history, and ive come to know what a hurdy-gurdy man and a charrette is....

the actors really makes this movie monumental, and sam rockwell does one of his best acts ever. ive come to know him as a crude and brutal villain on the silver screen, and seeing him in this role as a klansman that moderates into a civil rights man, that was just remarkable. taraj p. henson as his opponent in this drama do not deliver a bad act either, its just what you expect from an angry black middle aged woman in durham n.c in 1971. i will also pull forward the dominant use of southern dialect in this movie, no wonder you might think but ive seen many a flaw on that issue. it gives the film its own brand , hanging on to its local language, just likewhen '' drivin miss daisy'' in the 80's.

the grumpy old man really fell for this flick, though a bit slow, its brilliant, and therefore highly recommended.
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Excellent movie, great story, outstanding cast, must see
JohnRayPeterson15 December 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Skipping the IMDb storyline which you probably consulted already, and trying to avoid matching the quality reviewing expertise of ferguson-6' s review (you must check his always), I'll simply try to convey the feeling I got from watching 'The Best of Enemies'.

First, true stories of real people and of events that mattered are something I take seriously as we all should, and when they reveal a person's journey from a dark place to one of enlightenment, that always lifts my spirit and gives me just a bit more hope. This movie should do just that; it did for me.

The message I got from the movie echoes the words of former White House residents,"When they go low, you go high!" Oh, it's not an easy thing to do, but when have great accomplishments ever been the product of easy and simple efforts? Exactly!

Sam Rockwell's character, C.P. Ellis, experienced that aforementioned journey in the movie, albeit unconsciously and with much prodding from Ann Atwater, played by Taraji P. Henson. It's a site to behold because of the realism they brought to their performances. Then at the end we saw C.P.'s epiphany and some of you may have anticipated it while others, like myself could only brace themselves for it to happen. We are lucky to see in the epilogue, video clips of the real C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater, and they make us realize just how 'on the money' the story and the performances were.

'The Best of Enemies' may not have had the pizzazz of the movie 'Green Book', music tends to provide that, but it had more substance because the lives of so many Americans have been touched by the outcome of the events C.P. and Ann can be credited with. See it!
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Thought Provoking and Interesting
stevendbeard22 April 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I saw "The Best of Enemies", starring Taraji P. Henson-Empire_tv, Proud Mary; Sam Rockwell-Vice, Poltergeist_2015; Babou Ceesay-Into the Badlands_tv, Rogue One:A Star Wars Story and Bruce McGill-Rizzoli & Isles_tv, Animal House. This movie is based on a true story about a civil rights battle in North Carolina in 1971. It was basically between Taraji, a civil rights activist, and Sam, a Cyclops in the Ku Klux Klan, but there were others involved, too. School integration was the hot topic of the day and after a fire destroys a black school, things get even hotter. Taraji spearheads a movement to integrate the children into the white school but Sam and his friends are totally against it. Bruce plays the local councilman that doesn't want change but tries to keep his beliefs hidden. He is more worried about votes. Babou is a problem solver from out of town that comes to try and settle things with a Charrette. I've never heard of a Charrette but from what I can gather, it is where people from both sides have discussions and try to work things out, verbally, without resorting to violence. During the end credits, you see the actual people and hear what happened to them. It's rated "PG-13" for racial epithets, violence and some suggestive material and has a running time of 2 hours & 13 minutes. It is thought provoking and an interesting story but I don't think I would buy it on DVD-once was enough. It would be a good rental, though.
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Rich, Substantive, Moving. Go See It!
Danusha_Goska7 April 2019
"Best of Enemies" is a great movie and you should go see it. It's getting mediocre reviews, and that's disgusting. So many of us yearn for thoughtful, substantive, adult films. "Best of Enemies" is just that, and critics are attacking it because it isn't radical enough for them. Defy these losers. Go see "Best of Enemies."

It's 1971 in Durham, North Carolina. C. P. (Claiborne Paul) Ellis (Sam Rockwell) is the Exalted Cyclops of the local KKK. Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) is a black activist trying to get decent housing for black people. A black school burns and blacks petition to attend the local, white school. Black activist Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay) comes to town to organize a charrette. No, I'd never heard of a charrette, either. It's a French thing. People with opposing viewpoints are organized into discussion groups with a strictly imposed deadline. They must vote in a supermajority to approve any proposal.

C. P. Ellis' Klan is shown violently menacing white women. This is interesting because one justification offered for the Klan's existence was its purported protection of white women from black men. Ellis and his crew shoot up a house inhabited by a woman with a black boyfriend. In another scene, Klan members threaten a white female charrette participant to make sure that she won't vote for blacks to enter the white school.

Ellis' change is subtle and slow. There are no crashing music epiphany scenes. The movie is grounded in gritty day-to-day interactions, like Riddick compelling Atwater and Ellis to eat a school cafeteria meal together.

The entire cast is excellent. The production values are high. Clothes, cars, the songs on the soundtrack, evoke 1971 in the South. One drawback. Making a charrette dynamic drama is a challenge, one the director doesn't quite rise to. Some exposition scenes do drag. "1776" made the writing of the Declaration of Independence very dramatic, and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "Twelve Angry Men" made a filibuster and jury deliberations dramatic. I wish director Robin Bissell had taken a cue from these films.

The African Americans in the film are all saintly; most of the whites are sweat-stained, racist wretches or too cowardly to live up to their anti-segregation beliefs. It's patronizing to depict African Americans as flawless. We know that that era included hate and violence on all sides, including white-on-white (Viola Liuzzo and Jim Zwerg) and black-on-black (The Black Panthers and Malcolm X).

Further, the film fudges Ellis' Road-to-Damascus moment. "Best of Enemies" depicts Atwater showing small kindnesses to Ellis. The cinematic Ellis concludes that blacks are not inferior. In fact, though, Ellis' own memoir, he talks about growing up poor and being ashamed of being poor. He worked hard and could not get ahead. He was bitter and resentful and looking for someone to blame. The Klan encouraged him to blame blacks, not rich whites. As a Klansman, Ellis rubbed shoulders with wealthier whites. Outside of Klan meetings, though, those rich whites would cross the street to avoid him. Ellis concluded that desegregation would ultimately be best for poor and working class whites. None of Ellis' class struggle makes it into the movie. Hollywood has a hard time talking about poor whites.

There is a very handsome, very scary Klansman in a small part. I didn't remember seeing that actor in anything before "Best of Enemies." I made a mental note to google him. Darned if it isn't Wes Bentley, who made such a splash in 1999's "American Beauty." After that success, Bentley became a heroin addict. He's back to acting now. We wish him all the best. He has the star power to fill the screen. I found his Klansman genuinely scary.
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For open minded people who like good and solid dramas
Breumaster31 August 2019
This is a real life biographic movie that tells the biographic story of Ann Atwater (Taraji. P. Henson), a black female civil rights activist and C.P. Ellis, a local committee Klan president. When a black people school was burned down, the black pupils needed other classrooms. So Ann Atwater demanded the opportunity for the black pupils in 1971 Durham, North Carolina to go to school with white kids. The rest is history. A story I was tied to the screen. It's filmed in a wonderful cut - the story flows and to watch these 2 hours and 13 minutes felt like 1 hour and 45 minutes. In this movie I like how the characters change and develope. I was entertained in a serious and in a sophisticated way. It's not really a comedy or crime story. It's a very solid and good told drama about two different people who can't be more diferent - but learned from each other.

Greetz! :D
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Inspiring story of heroism and hope
dbrock-7730 July 2019
Although some reviews relegate this to the "sanitized racial reconciliation narrative" dump pile, I believe that movies like this inspire people to learn more and they are worth every bit of time and investment. Thankful that producers continue to find stories like this can give us hope in a world where most of what we see on the news and are offered in theaters and streaming services are based on concerningly sick and/or violent themes that leave me feeling angry, fearful and depressed.
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2 consummate actors make this movie great!
kimmishy52 February 2020
Taraji P. Hensen and Sam Rockwell are outstanding in this movie. There's NOTHING more powerful then the power of the HUMAN spirit! This movie will make you jump to your feet!
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Analog_Devotee12 September 2021
Absolute phenomenal true story made into an equally phenomenal film. This one takes place practically in my backyard!
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andymaranam26 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Enthralling gripping and excellently portrayed movie regarding issues of segregation in the south of the state's with a great cast in Sam Rockwell & Taraji p henson being put in a very difficult scenario, who's delivery is immaculate, in fact the whole cast are great as is the material & with that you get an emotional movie with alot of depth. I thoroughly enjoyed the film & it actually bought a tear. Its not for everyone but every one should watch it. A solid 10/10 .
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Watch this movie
HumbleMensa6 April 2021
This story will (or, should) humble anyone to the core. I won't say more, lest I spoil it. This flick deserves A LOT more recognition than it got. Well worth my time and a great life lesson.
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Clunky at times but ultimately affecting
DrewzQuickReviewz5 April 2019
A solid supporting cast and fantastic set and costume design help create a town that feels utterly authentic to the time and place. Predictability and issues with pacing and balance are swept aside by an incredible true story bolstered by strong performances from Sam Rockwell and Taraji P. Henson. It's a little graceless and heavy handed in its delivery at certain points but the final product is a genuine, relevant and touching film.
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