Saturday, April 20, 2024

Toronto Review: Colman Domingo Is Stunning as Civil Rights Leader and MLK Jr Comrade Bayard Rustin in “Rustin”


Bayard Rustin is not a well known character from the civil rights movement. But he was Martin Luther King’s comrade, and the architect of King’s 1963 March on Washington. His legacy got lost in the mix of time mostly because he was gay and not an accessible hero for students.

The great theater director George C. Wolfe changes all that in “Rustin,” a biopic that brings Wolfe’s whole outstanding career to a high point. He’s got Colman Domingo– known for solid supporting roles in TV, movies, and plays — also doing his very best work as the title character. They should each get Oscar nominations and I dare say that Domingo may dazzle the Academy over the likes of DiCaprio, Cooper, Murphy and even Giamatti.

Wolfe and screenwriters Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black carefully juggle a rich and three dimensional ensemble cast that also includes the great Glynn Turman, Chris Rock, Adrienne Warren, CCH Pounder, Audra McDonald, Michael Potts, and Jeffrey Wright. It’s to the screenplay’s credit that we can keep all these people straight as Rustin wrangles them all to the monumental vision of the March — despite dozens of obstacles and setbacks.

Domingo on his own march, though, you can see it in his eyes. They are on fire as he navigates Rustin’s determination to live his life without fear both personally and professionally. Fictionalized romances with a straight married minister are addressed head on with grace just as Rustin also has a young white man who lives with him and expects more. But the romantic stuff is secondary even though it informs Rustin. He knows he’s a civil rights trailblazer and will not be deterred from his mission.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News