American Fiction – The DVDfever Cinema Review – Jeffrey Wright

American Fiction American Fiction centres around Monk – full name Thelonious Ellison, played by Jeffrey Wright (Asteroid City), a professor who upsets one of his students by talking about a work with a contraversial title, and how he’s apparently accused a German student of being a Nazi.

He’s also an author who hasn’t written a book that’s sold well for years, but only wants to produce a work of which he’s proud, and refuses to kowtow to writing anything cheap and lazy.

Before long, he chances across fellow author Sintara Golden (Issa RaeBarbie) at a Q&A, copping out with her latest opus, “We’s Lives In Da Ghetto”, and can be heard tutting without saying anything, even though her novels are a massive hit.

As such, he finally agrees to put pen to paper and succumbs to ‘writing’ “My Pathology”, quickly dumbed down to “My Pafology”, with another twist to come which I won’t reveal. Hence, the lesson is to cheapen out in order to be successful, but as he wrestles with his conscience over it, he observes, “The dumber I become, the richer I get”.

This is juxtapositioned with the fact he’s told to take some leave away from his job, and spend some time with family, and while chatting to sister Lisa (Tracee Ellis RossCandy Cane Lane), the story mixes in how his mother, Agnes (Leslie UggamsDeadpool 2), is slowly becoming very ill, and has never accepted that her other son, Clifford (Sterling K BrownThe Rhythm Section), is gay.

What struck a chord with me most is that Monk is the average everyman, frustrated that the world isn’t going his way whatever he tries to do, rather like a more polite Victor Meldrew.

There’s also a number of scenes with his agent, Arthur (John OrtizAd Astra), who – prior to “My Pafology” – tries to get across what sells by instructing that Monk needs to write “a black book“, to which comes the reply, “Well, I’m black and it’s my book!” Arthur’s rejoinder, “You know what I mean!” just confuses him further.

Other plotlines thrown in involve starting a romance with his Mum’s neighbour Coraline (Erika AlexanderGet Out), except that since he’s a grumpy old Hector at times, can they make it work? His Meldrew also shows when he strides into a bookshop and gets annoyed that his book has been moved from fiction to African-American Studies, so no-one can find it to buy it; and he’s also cajoled into judging a literary award, after seeing what dross sells.

There’s also a great analogy from his agent, who refers to the quality of books with Johnnie Walker Red, Black then Blue, increasing in price as they go.

I remember a similarish scene in Dream On, where Martin Tupper (Brian Benben) wanted to only publish great books in his opinion. However, they didn’t sell very well. His boss, Gibby Fiske (Michael McKean), knew that trash sells, however, so struck a deal with Martin that for every trashy book he helps get out the door, Gibby will also allow Martin to publish a book that Martin likes. I know that programme was from around 30 years ago, so other productions are allowed something similar, but hey, it’s just what came to mind.

Overall, American Fiction is well worth two hours of anyone’s time. It highlights a superb performance from Wright, and it’s a great shame that it’s not showing on as many screens as it should. If it has a downside, it’s that the film doesn’t really know how to end, but it’s a great ride for the majority of the time you’re sat down.

American Fiction is in cinemas now, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD. However, once announced, it will appear on the New DVD Blu-ray 3D and 4K releases UK list.

However, you can buy the novel, Erasure, in Paperback and Kindle formats.

American Fiction – Official Trailer – MGM

Detailed specs:

Running time: 117 minutes
Release date: February 2nd 2024
Studio: MGM / Orion Pictures
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Cinema: Odeon Trafford Centre
Rating: 7.5/10

Director: Cord Jefferson
Producers: Cord Jefferson, Jermaine Johnson, Nikos Karamigios, Ben LeClair
Screenplay: Cord Jefferson
Novel: Percival Everett (“Erasure”)
Music: Laura Karpman

Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison: Jeffrey Wright
Coraline: Erika Alexander
Lisa Ellison: Tracee Ellis Ross
Arthur: John Ortiz
Agnes Ellison: Leslie Uggams
Wiley Valdespino: Adam Brody
Willy the Wonker: Keith David
Sintara Golden: Issa Rae
Clifford Ellison: Sterling K Brown
Lorraine: Myra Lucretia Taylor
Maynard: Raymond Anthony Thomas
Van Go Jenkins: Okieriete Onaodowan
Paula Baderman: Miriam Shor
John Bosco: Michael Cyril Creighton
Mandel: Patrick Fischler
Wilson Harnet: Neal Lerner
Carl Brunt: JC MacKenzie
Ailene Hoover: Jenn Harris
Jon Daniel Sigmarsen: Bates Wilder
Jelani: Michael Jibrin
Brittany: Skyler Wright
Leo: John Ales
Bulger’s Nurse: Michele Proude
Gilda: Carmen Cusack
Dr. Bulger: David De Beck
Matthew Wilson: Joseph Marrella
Jordan Phillips: Stephen Burrell
Sintara’s Moderator: Nicole Kempskie