18:30 Sunday 3rd March 2024
Already, from its American release, Cord Jefferson’s feature debut - and particularly its star performance - has been receiving sky-high praise and awards chatter. Jefferson cut his teeth as a writer on shows like Succession, which should be a clue to this nimble satire’s skills. It's lovely to see Jeffrey Wright getting a meaty dramatic role to sink into Thelonius Ellison (known as Monk, excellent) - a professor and author whose sales have been fading. Desperately seeking a marketable story, he stumbles upon a fellow writer (Issa Rae) who has apparently betrayed her own middle-class Black identity in service of a stereotype-ridden novel; and, most gallingly for Monk, produced a smash-hit in the process. Inspired by this story he dons a pseudonym and writes a jokey book, full of clichés which play on his ethnicity, only finding that it's the audience’s appetite for “authentic” fiction that make it go viral as well. Continuing in the wake of razor-sharp commentaries like Sorry to Bother You, whose protagonist also finds his identity tested in a battle between integrity and financial survival, there's a dark heart beneath American Fiction’s comedic surface. Its take on contemporary media’s selectiveness around Black representation and storylines is certainly timely, and critics have already noted Wright’s ease at negotiating these complex issues.
Screenings of this film:
|2023/2024 Spring Term – (digital)