Selma, the new Oprah Winfrey-produced film about a year in the life of Martin Luther King Jr., received “two thunderous standing ovations” at its first screening in New York Monday night, film critic Roger Friedman wrote on his website, Showbiz 411.
Friedman wrote that Selma was so well-received, “It leaps right into the top tier of this year’s Oscar race.”
“David Oyelowo gives the performance of a lifetime as King, defining him on film finally after all these years,” Friedman continued. “Watching ‘Selma,’ you really feel like all the plays, movies, TV shows, songs – every theater piece about King – all of it culminates in this film.”
In addition to Winfrey, the film was also produced by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B Entertainment. Lee Daniels, director of last year’s breakout hit The Butler, was reportedly originally attached to direct, but ultimately stepped down to let relative newcomer Ava DuVernay step into the director’s chair.
“She better thank him [Daniels] in her speeches,” Friedman wrote of DuVernay. “Quite an accomplishment.”
Friedman is not the only critic with positive things to say about the film, due out in January.
Writing in the Hollywood Reporter last week, Stephen Farber wrote that “although Oyelowo doesn’t look or sound exactly like King, he gives a definitive performance.”
“His rousing speeches are superbly done, and his moments of introspection and self-doubt retrieve the humanity in a leader who has come to seem larger than life,” Farber continued. “This year’s race for best actor, which is already packed with strong contenders, may just have a new front-runner.”
And James Rocchi of TheWrap called Selma “one of the best American films of the year – and indeed perhaps the best – precisely because it does not simply show what Dr. King did for America in his day; it also wonders explicitly what we have left undone for America in ours.”
Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., opens in the United States on January 9, 2015.