Illuminating a Civil Rights Icon “Rustin,” a new biographical film, brings Bayard Rustin, a key figure in the civil rights movement and organizer of the iconic March on Washington, into the limelight. This overdue recognition highlights Rustin’s instrumental role alongside Martin Luther King Jr., despite the movie’s narrative shortcomings.
Colman Domingo’s Standout Performance While the film might not match the inspirational heights of its subject, Colman Domingo delivers a powerful portrayal of Bayard Rustin. His performance transcends Rustin’s unique mannerisms and voice, bringing depth to the character’s commitment and struggles as an openly gay Black man in the 1960s.
A Story of Political Intrigue and Personal Struggle The film delves into Rustin’s personal life, including his romantic involvement with a married pastor, and his political challenges within the civil rights movement. It also depicts the strategic planning and pressure involved in organizing the March on Washington, aiming to garner the attention of the Kennedy administration.
An Esteemed Production with Limited Impact Directed by George C. Wolfe and featuring a script by Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black, with production by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground, “Rustin” boasts an impressive lineup. However, its portrayal of Rustin’s life and achievements, while historically significant, is delivered in a somewhat conventional manner, leaving some potential unfulfilled.
Supporting Cast and Cinematic Execution Despite having a stellar supporting cast including Chris Rock, Glynn Turman, Audra McDonald, and CCH Pounder, “Rustin” creates few memorable moments outside of Domingo’s central performance. The film’s narrative approach and execution do not quite ascend to the dramatic heights expected from such a noteworthy subject.
A Tribute to History More Than Drama “Rustin,” now streaming on Netflix following its theatrical release, serves more as an important historical tribute than a compelling drama. While it successfully brings recognition to Bayard Rustin’s significant but underappreciated role in the civil rights movement, the film remains a tier below the cinematic mountaintop in terms of storytelling and emotional impact.