PLOT Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and his 60-year career in the Civil Rights Movement and in Washington.
RATED PG (thematic materials including racial epithets and violence)
WHEN | WHERE Streaming Friday, 12 a.m., on various services, including Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play and others.
BOTTOM LINE Engaging portrait of the Civil Rights icon.
Civil Rights leader turned politician John Lewis, 80, appeared on "CBS This Morning" after George Floyd's murder and — considering his battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer — looked pretty good. A little on the thin side maybe (his doctor "is trying to get me to eat more" he told Gayle King) but otherwise, this was the Lewis we've known since before we can remember.
Nevertheless, this view is the one that will stick, and should. Taped in the run-up to the 2018 midterms, he radiates health and optimism, leavened with realism. "Lucky and blessed," he calls himself, "but there are forces today trying to take us back to another time." Floyd, of course, remains far in the future.
"Good Trouble" — drawn from the stump speech line that you have to get into "good trouble … to do what's right" — covers the extraordinary life and career through archival footage. It's an enlightening trove, even to Lewis who admits to the camera that he hasn't even seen all of this. Sound bites from current and former colleagues tend to be far less enlightening — the usual lily-gilding — while "Good Trouble" mostly skims the considerable legislative record.
That extraordinary life, however, does come into sharp focus. Born in Troy, Alabama, on Feb. 21, 1940, Lewis went to seminary in Nashville where he organized sit-ins at lunch counters. A letter to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led to a meeting, which led to a foundational partnership that changed history and culminated in the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. As Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee chair, he helped organize the March on Washington, then nearly lost his life on Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, when his skull was fractured by State Troopers. As one of the original "Freedom Riders," he would be arrested many times, while the rounded-down figure he uses here is 40 ("and I may get arrested some more," he jokes).
Decades later, after a bruising campaign against friend and fellow Civil Rights leader Julian Bond (who died in 2015), Lewis was elected to Georgia's fifth Congressional district in 1986.
What's best about "Good Trouble" is Lewis. This is an eye-level portrait and a human one. The subject is warm, approachable, unfailingly decent. The John Lewis of "Good Trouble" isn't just the John Lewis we want him to be, but the one we need him to be — the last great Civil Rights prophet who still moves among us and living reminder that while the battle continues, the outcome is assured.
"We will get there," he promises. "I still believe we shall overcome."