‘AMERICAN FICTION’ Review | The Perfect Blend

Every so often a movie comes along that just seems to do everything right. While there were a number of quality films this year, American Fiction is the one that stands out amongst the crowd. It didn’t have a huge budget like Napoleon, or the consumer buzz like Barbie and Oppenheimer, but it’s certainly in the running for one of the best films of the year.

American Fiction was written and directed by Cord Jefferson. While this is his directorial debut, he has an impressive filmography as a writer, which includes the HBO Watchmen series, The Good Place, and Master of None on Netflix. All of these shows are critically acclaimed, and generally loved by audiences, so it’s not surprising that American Fiction turned out so well.

The film centers around Thelonious Ellison (Jeffrey Wright), affectionately known as Monk. He’s an African American writer who hasn’t been published in some time. The world is craving novels on stereotypical Black culture, with success in the field from fellow author Sintara Golden (Issa Rae). Monk would prefer to write more intellectual novels instead of simply catering to the masses. However, when he writes such a novel for fun, thinking it wouldn’t go anywhere, it blows up to become a huge hit.

There’s a lot to unpack in American Fiction, with several layers to dive into if you’re so inclined. On the surface, it’s a comedy about a writer finding a new path in the industry. Dig a bit deeper and it becomes a melancholy family drama about a mother (Leslie Uggams), and how those who love her cope with her ailing health. But it’s also a love story, a film about being Black in America, and a film about coming out late in life.

American Fiction, Cord Jefferson, Issa Rae, Jeffrey Wright, Sterling K Brown

Suffice to say, American Fiction skillfully tackles a number of hot button topics. It weaves all these different threads together into one cohesive plot that services every single character in a gratifying way. What’s even more impressive is that it manages all of this with a runtime under two hours, something that seems to be a rare accomplishment these days.

Jeffrey Wright carries the film, but this is very much an ensemble cast. Sterling K. Brown is clearly having fun as Monk’s recently out of the closet brother, Clifford. Their mother doesn’t always approve of this, which creates additional drama. Monk’s girlfriend, Coraline (Erika Alexander), a successful lawyer, adds yet another layer to this complex puzzle, as Monk continues to push her and everyone else away.

Everyone on the cast has their moment to shine as these story threads intertwine. This creates what is easily one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory, rivaling both Barbie and Oppenheimer, while offering more complexity than both films (although Oppenheimer comes very close). It has the drama and family dynamic of Oppenheimer, with the comedy of Barbie, and the complexity of both.

American Fiction isn’t going to land big at the box office, and the awards recognition has been hit or miss thus far, but this is absolutely one of the best films of the year. Catch it in theaters this weekend, or on Amazon Prime Video after its theatrical run. It’s easy to digest, yet offers a considerable amount of depth as it navigates between the various film genres.

About American Fiction

Synopsis: A novelist who’s fed up with the establishment profiting from “Black” entertainment uses a pen name to write a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.

Director: Cord Jefferson

Writer: Cord Jefferson

Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Issa Rae, Leslie Uggams, John Ortiz

Rated: R

Runtime: 1 Hour, 57 Minutes

American Fiction, Cord Jefferson, Issa Rae, Jeffrey Wright, Sterling K Brown

Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.

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