Friday, February 16, 2024

Film Friday: "American Fiction," Is a Spectacular Film

When I heard that a movie titled, "American Fiction," was an adaptation and modernization of a great novel, "Erasure," I was interested. Seeing the cast included such amazing talent as Jeffrey Wright, Leslie Uggams, Tracee Ellis Ross, Sterling K. Brown, Adrian Brody, Issa Rae, and more, got me even more excited. Having seen, "American Fiction," I will say it is spectacular and even better than the book it draws from--a rare occurrence. I appreciate that the general idea is the same: A professor known as, "Monk," in honor of his first name (Thelonious) is fed up with having his writing on mythologies and other subjects being ignored and put in the, "African-American Studies," section of bookstores for no reason other than his race. He then writes in his rage a story full of stereotypes, cliches, melodrama, and so forth. When the book he wrote as a joke suddenly is a hit it complicates his life. However, the movie adds a younger brother in addition to the book's sister, a tweaked love interest (played by Erika Alexander, also fantastic), and spends a lot more time focusing on family and how regardless of our race, our loved ones can be both a blessing and a curse.

Directed by Cord Jefferson, he masterfully executes the mix of humor from Monk's book getting popular and serious familial issues. While, "Erasure," actually had a fun metatextual element of containing Monk's book he writes under a pen name, the film, "American Fiction," incorporates us, "Reading," the book through an ingenious scene where two characters within the novel interact around Monk, occasionally looking at him asking what to say or do next. It's just one striking moment in the movie that provides a clever way for us to peek into the mind of a writer as he creates--even if what he's creating is meant to be more of pandering and sarcastic, "Screw you," to the literary world than anything else.

One thing that bugged me about, "Erasure," back when I read it was how the author, Percival Everett, ends the book quite suddenly. "American Fiction," even riffs on this, seeming to cut out at the exact same moment as, "Erasure," before admitting that is too jarring for the audience's sensibilities when they desire an ending that's less open-ended and more direct. Even when, "American Fiction," gives the audience what it wants, it makes sure we are aware that it is with a bit of a knowing wink. Thanks to superb direction, stellar writing, and some amazing acting, "American Fiction," is easy to rate...

5 out of 5 stars.

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