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"American Fiction": A Movie Review


Blurb:  Monk is a frustrated novelist who's fed up with the establishment that profits from Black entertainment that relies on tired and offensive tropes. To prove his point, he uses a pen name to write an outlandish Black book of his own, a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.


Jeffrey Wright

Tracee Ellis Ross

John Ortiz

Erika Alexander

Leslie Uggams

Issa Rae

Sterling K. Brown

Myra Lucretia Taylor

Raymond Anthony Thomas

Directed by:  

Cord Jefferson

Written by: 

Cord Jefferson

Based on the novel Erasure by Percival Everett


BEN'S RATING:  ☕☕☕☕☕☕☕ X X

I think this might be my choice for Best Picture. I won't bet on it, because, sadly, I think Oppenheimer has it. Oh, well.

This movie is simply amazing. It's told in an inspiring way. The acting, from Jeffrey Wright as Dr. Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, our hero, to Erika Alexander as Coraline the possible love interest, to Sterling K. Brown as the gay brother, to Leslie Uggams as the mother with worsening Alzheimer's, and even Myra Lucretia Taylor as Lorraine, the family "servant," the entire cast turned in a simply outstanding performance. And I can't forget Issa Rae as Sintara Golden!

Our story centers around Monk, a published author whose career is going nowhere. He is very distressed over the blaxploitation happening in the publishing industry, and he'd like to blame the publishers, but it's what people want to read. It's what SELLS.

And he's not selling.

On a crazy whim he decides to write a crazy over-the-top stereotypical black character driven book, his agent says it's horrible (it is), and to their shock Monk Is offered $750,000 for it. And before it's even been released, he has a $4 million movie deal. And now what's he going to do? He doesn't want anybody to know that he wrote it. He's a serious writer. So he has to make up a whole persona to ride the book.

The movie also is all about how Monk simply can't let his shields down. He's bitter and reserved. He pushes people away. And as we see the possible beginnings have a wonderful relationship for him with a wonderful woman, given his past, he's likely to mess this up too.

Does this all sound terribly serious? Well it is. But thankfully we take the medicine with a spoonful of sugar because it is presented as satire and we find ourselves bursting into laughter throughout the entire film. I highly highly recommend you see this as soon as possible.


And then there is the ambiguous ending. The lady in the tiger. The French Lieutenant's Woman. The fact that in many ways we don't know what happens. When Monk goes to talk to the director about the direction of the film, we are fooled into thinking that what happens next is what happens next. When in fact what happens is simply a suggestion that Monk makes to the director as to the ending of the movie version. The director doesn't like that ending. So Monk gives him two more. And is the more hideous and stereotypical ending that the director loves.

To our surprise however we are finding out that Monk is finally growing up. Learning which hill to die on and is all this worth dying for? He's learning to love. And to make himself vulnerable. And is his relationship with Coraline going to work. I guess that's for us to decide. I think he will. And I think he's going to have a better relationship with his brother.

And who knows what's going to happen when the world finds out, and it invariably will, that Monk is not who he is pretending to be.

It's interesting for me that I usually hate hate hate this kind of ending. Ask anybody who knows me, but every now and then for some reason that ambiguous ending works. I was given enough information that I can be satisfied that I don't know what happens next. That I know the story was really over when the film ends and that whatever happens next isn't as important.

All in all, one of my two top favorites of the year, along with, Poor Things.

What's your choice?


Warning: The following is a complete synopsis of the movie. It's nothing but spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Thelonious "Monk" Ellison is a highly intelligent African-American upper-class writer and professor in Los Angeles. His novels receive academic praise, but sell poorly, and publishers reject his latest manuscript for not being "black enough". His university places him on temporary leave due to his brashness with students over racial issues and suggests he attend a literary seminar and spend time with family in his hometown of Boston. At the seminar, his panel is poorly attended, yet there is a packed room for an interview with Sintara Golden, whose bestselling novel We's Lives in Da Ghetto panders to black stereotypes.

In Boston, Monk bonds with his mother Agnes, who shows signs of Alzheimer's disease, and sister Lisa, a medical doctor. While having drinks with Monk, Lisa suffers a heart attack and later dies in the hospital. Monk's estranged brother, Cliff, a plastic surgeon, attends Lisa's funeral. Cliff is divorced after his wife caught him cheating with a man; he now engages in frequent drug use and casual sex. Monk meets and starts dating Coraline, a lawyer living across the street.

Frustrated by Sintara's success and the costs of care for his mother, Monk writes My Pafology, a satirical novel mocking the literary clichés expected from black writers: melodramatic plots, deadbeat dads, gang violence, drugs. After submitting it to publishers out of contempt, he is shocked to be offered a $750,000 advance, and his agent Arthur convinces him to adopt the persona of former convict "Stagg R. Leigh". As "Stagg", Monk is offered a movie deal from producer Wiley. In response to insulting comments from publishing executives, Monk tries to sabotage the deal by demanding the title be changed to Fuck. Unexpectedly, the executives agree. Monk is invited to help judge the New England Book Association's Literary Award as part of a "diversity push", and he reluctantly accepts. A fellow judge is Sintara, and Monk is surprised to learn she shares many of his views.

Agnes moves into an assisted-living facility, but adapts poorly. Cliff briefly returns to Boston, but leaves after Agnes makes a homophobic remark. Fuck becomes a bestseller. Coraline, Cliff, and the public remain unaware that "Stagg" is Monk, and the FBI contacts the publisher, believing Stagg is a fugitive, as he has claimed in interviews.

On family housekeeper Lorraine's wedding day, Monk finds Cliff living in Agnes's beach house with two other men: Cliff never left Boston and has been partying and doing drugs, but Lorraine is happy to have him attend the wedding. At the reception, Monk and Cliff discuss the impact of their father's suicide, and Cliff encourages Monk to let people "love all of him."

Monk's publisher submits Fuck for the literary award, forcing him to judge his own novel. The panel's white Limousine liberal judges rave over Fuck, though Sintara calls it "pandering." Monk agrees, but later argues that Sintara's book is "trauma porn" and inauthentic to her African-American middle-class background. Sintara argues that she extensively researched her book by interviewing voiceless people, was "giving the market what it wants," and that it is not her fault if white readers formed stereotypes from her book. Monk is even more offended when he finds that Coraline enjoyed reading Fuck; they argue and break up.

At the award ceremony, Fuck is announced as the winner. Monk goes onstage and says he has a confession to make. The screen cuts to black, and the story is revealed to be Monk's screenplay based on his experiences, written for Wiley's production company as an alternative to the Fuck film adaptation. Monk has not revealed his identity to the public and is still separated from Coraline. Wiley likes the screenplay but asks Monk to write a different ending.

Monk proposes one with his running away from the ceremony to apologize to his ex-girlfriend. Wiley doesn't like this, as it is closer to romantic comedy. Monk then suggests one where police, believing Monk to be a wanted criminal holding a gun, fatally shoot him at the ceremony. Much to Monk's dismay, Wiley (also busy filming blaxploitation film Plantation Annihilation) loves it, and the film moves into production. Monk drives away with Cliff after he and one of Wiley's actors, playing a slave, acknowledge each other. *

** xxxx

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I have been meaning to tell you how much I love the way you format your reviews. I will use this review as an example. The story sounded interesting and the cast is impeccable so I’ve been intrigued and happy to see it making the award season circuit and Jeffrey Wright getting attention for another great roll. I have only seen two trailers. So your review gives me more details and enticement but allows me to decide if I want everything to be revealed or decide to see the movie based on your personal comments. It sounds like it’s as terrific as the trailers so I’ll wait to

capture it myself.

Thank you so much.

Replying to

I am so happy that you like the way I am doing this. I worked and worked and worked to find a format I like and it is so nice that it is appreciated! ❤️

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