There is nothing fundamentally wrong with "The Best of Enemies." It's a competently made film, with a good cast and a solid enough script.
But for a film based on an incredible true story of an unlikely friendship, "Enemies" lacks that emotional punch you would expect. In the hands of first time director/screen writer Robin Bissell every scene feels calculated down to a second, resulting in a movie that feels way too safe and down the middle.
"Enemies" tells the story of Ann Atwater (Tajai P. Henson), a Civil Rights activist in 1971 Durham, N.C. whose latest cause is trying to force local officials into allowing school desegregation when a fire causes damage to one of the schools.
The officials decide to turn to an outsider from Raleigh (Babou Ceesay), who suggests a charrette - with Ann and C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), the head of the local chapter of the Klu Klux Klan serving as the co-chairs on the 12 person committee.
This reluctant partnership turned into an unlikely friendship that spanned decades.
"The Best of Enemies" should show how both were changed and the transformation from enemies to good friends took place - but Bissell's screenplay (working from a novel by Osha Gray Davidson) never truly delves into the relationship as much as it should. Instead the film relies on storytelling that hits the high points, building to a crowd-pleasing moment in the final act, that barely scratches the surface. It's one of those films where every song choice - and there are a lot of musical montages throughout - are too on the nose, spelling out exactly how the audience is supposed to feel about every plot development.
Henson and Rockwell do what they can given the material they have to work with, but their chemistry never quite feels organic with Rockwell's transformation almost way too sudden given the flow of the film.
It's not until the very end until we truly get to understand how much the incident in the film truly changed both of these peoples - with real life interviews playing during the closing credits that give more of a sense of who they were than anything in the film.
Those interviews left me wanting to know more about Ann and C.P. - and wishing their story was told in a better movie.