SHIFTER’s Kevin Bourne says Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut is “nomination worthy to say the least”. Here’s his full American Fiction film review.
When author and English literature professor, Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright), is forced to take a leave from work due to his unconventional teaching methods, he heads back home to Boston for a writers festival. While at home, he learns that he’s not only out of touch with the literary world but his family, including his mother (Leslie Uggams), sister Lisa (Tracee Ellis Ross), and brother (Sterling K. Brown).
Not only does Monk have to worry about up and coming author Sintara Golden (Issa Rae) who becomes the rage by playing into Black stereotypes for the enjoyment of white audiences, Monk must decide whether he’ll compromise or stay true to himself. Meanwhile, he also has to care for his aging mother and endure a family altering tragedy.
When he falls in love with the neighbor, Coraline (Erika Alexander), he must also decide whether he will finally let the people around him love him,
Adapted from Percival Everett’s novel Erasure, American Fiction isn’t just a film but a social commentary on race both in the literary world and in America. The film uses humor from beginning to end to deliver a poignant message about misguided wokeness, the commodification of marginalized voices, some white allies’ need to be the loudest voice in the room, and their inability to listen to the very people they are supposedly trying to help.
Acclaimed writer Cord Jefferson (Watchmen, Station 11) makes his directorial debut with American Fiction, delivering an impressive and well shot film. At certain moments, Jefferson allows viewers into Monk’s mind with comical dramatizations and alternate scenarios.
The first-time director assembled an all-star cast who together anchored the film. The film was in good hands with the Tony, Emmy and Golden Globe winning Jeffrey Wright. as the lead actor. He delivered another award-worthy performance for his portrayal of the jaded, melancholy, and emotionally unavailable author and professor. His onscreen chemistry with Erika Alexander and Sterling K, Brown was both believable and palpable, leading to many feel-good and comedic moments.
While the conclusion of the film doesn’t fully provide a clear sense of closure, potentially leaving some viewers with questions, the witty and clever writing and heartfelt and comedic performances are nomination worthy to say the least.
SHIFTER editor and Senior Entertainment Reporter, Kevin Bourne, is a Toronto-based entertainment journalist focusing on Black music and film & TV. He was named one of 310 international voters for the 81st Golden Globe Awards by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and a Tomatometer-Approved Critic by Rotten Tomatoes.