Saturday 4 May 2024

American Fiction [2023]

 Rarely have I postponed the viewing of a film to read the book that it’s based on; rarer still is “discovering” an accomplished author in the process and then going on to admire the film as well. In his excellent 2001 novel Erasure, which I read last month, Percival Everett had served a wickedly funny satire on commodified representation of subaltern experiences by the cultural landscape in order to pander to white/liberal guilt, along with an elegiac portrayal of a man traversing through personal, professional, familial and existential crises. American Fiction, Cord Jefferson’s incisive and crackling directorial debut, mirrored the book’s themes, tones, wit, irony and underlying sense of being lost, while also carving its identity. Its richness was displayed through both its conscious convergences and playful departures. Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) is an African-American writer and literature professor whose life’s in a precarious state – his editor is unable to have his erudite books sold as they’re lacking in “Black Experience”; he’s forced into sabbatical for alienating his students; his mom is slipping into Alzheimer’s that necessitates expensive care; his sister has unexpectedly died; his brother has just come out as gay; and he’s getting to know his late father’s extra-marital secrets. When an African-American woman achieves significant fame for a book that, Monk feels, is exploitative and stereotypical, he too decides – as an expression of his anger and disgust – to pseudonymously speed-write one; contrary to his wildest imaginations, however, it becomes a smash hit. Led by Wright’s stunningly layered performance and commendable support turns, and accompanied by a captivating jazz-based soundtrack, the film was especially striking in its impishly brilliant and metatextual reworking/extension of the book’s finale.

Director: Cord Jefferson

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Social Satire/Family Drama

Language: English

Country: US

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