American Fiction Scores Big: Stars Hope It’s a Wake-Up Call for Diversity in Hollywood

American Fiction is surprisingly tender for an Oscar-nominated film that’s cagey in its approach to social commentary and personal integrity. Veteran actor Jeffrey Wright is typically found in supporting roles. Still, here he delivers a masterful performance as a narcissistic author who takes great pleasure in pranking his rivals by writing an outrageously stereotypical “Black” book out of spite – only to see it become wildly successful and bring his reputation to ruin.

Adapted by Jefferson, who wrote for hit TV shows like Succession and Station Eleven before making this debut feature, American Fiction is intelligent, well-acted, and well-judged in its use of satire and drama. The characters are easy to identify, and the film’s underlying themes — including how some Black authors seem to pander to white readers for financial gain — are both sensitive and well-considered.

The script has a sharp wit and is full of surprises, but it’s the casting that’s most impressive. In addition to Wright’s strong performance, there are terrific performances from Sterling K. Brown and Leslie Uggams, who plays the mother who holds the family together.

It’s also a pleasure to see the film embrace its period setting without falling prey to cliches or stereotypes. The way it combines comedy with an almost Shakespearean drama about the ups and downs of publishing is refreshing, and there’s even a touch of August Wilson in the film’s way of dealing with complex relationships.

The story revolves around Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, a professor and writer who has no luck publishing a new literary novel. So, as a bit of a practical joke, he assumes a pen name and writes an outrageously stereotypical “Black” book that’s stuffed with racial tropes and stereotypes. Then, to his surprise, it becomes a massive success.

He can’t believe it. His grating reaction to hearing fellow author Sintara Golden (Issa Rae, who kills it) read a passage from her latest book to a fawning audience is a memorable moment. The dialogue smacks of groaning Ebonic. It sounds nothing like real conversation, but the actors easily pull it off.

It’s a shame that a witty and entertaining movie like this has to take on the issue of race in Hollywood and still get stifled by the industry’s long-held prejudices. But the movie’s stars and director hope its enthusiastic reception will help to shift attitudes, as it already has among critics and audiences. The film’s five Oscar nominations will give it the boost it needs to go all the way. And if it does, Wright and the other talented cast members will be at the top of the heap. It’s time for them to shine.

- A word from our sponsors -

Most Popular

More from "fashionista loves"