- Jeffrey Wright, Skyler Wright, Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross,
- February 2nd 2024
- Cord Jefferson
Jeffrey Wright plays author Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison, who achieves great success when he writes a stereotypical Black story.
American Fiction is one of the last Best Picture Oscar nominee to reach our shores before the big ceremony in March.
Cord Jefferson’s film, based on the novel Erasure by Percival Everett, stars Jeffrey Wright as Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison, an author trying to get his next novel published, without much success.
As a joke-slash-experiment, Monk writes My Pafology, a fake memoir by convict Stagg R. Leigh. Monk becomes conflicted when his “trash” novel becomes a hit with publishers and movie producers – he could do with the money but he would be going against his principles and perpetuating Black stereotypes.
Ashamed of what he’s done, Monk keeps the novel and his pseudonym under wraps and effectively starts living a double life. He also has to make appearances as Leigh in meetings and transforms from a quiet intellectual into a hardened street thug.
This cleverly-written satire explores what ‘Black stories’ are allowed to find an audiences and what types of tales Black authors are expected to produce.
According to Monk, Black stories involving gangsters, drugs, police brutality and slavery are the ones that appeal most to the tastes of the white tastemakers in the publishing/moviemaking industries.
Through Monk’s conversations with his agent Arthur (John Ortiz) and fellow author Sintara Golden (Issa Rae), who found success with her book We’s Lives In Da Ghetto, the film sharply challenges the box Black storytellers are trying to break free from.
Wright, Ortiz and Rae bring the smart story to life wonderfully alongside Tracee Ellis Ross and Sterling K. Brown as Monk’s siblings.
Wright deserves his Best Actor Oscar nomination for his sensitive and complex depiction of Monk, but Brown is a revelation as his brother Cliff, who is fresh out of the closet following the end of his marriage. We see a whole new side to Brown – Cliff is wild, hilarious and quietly moving.
American Fiction is a sharp and amusing satire that makes you consider the racial bias in the content you consume.
In cinemas Friday 2nd February.
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