American Fiction | Review by: Benjamin Garrett


American Fiction delivers pointed, intelligent satire on Black representation in literature and mainstream media. It also gives us a touching family drama built around loss, responsibility and acceptance. It’s very much a film of two halves. Individually, these ideas work well - especially the clever social commentary. Combined, however, they make for a project that feels a little more disjointed and unfocused than it ought to. 

Jeffrey Wright is excellent as a struggling writer, frustrated with America’s desire for, and consumption of stereotypical black stories. His distaste for popular media, and eventual hatred of his own fictional persona is made wildly entertaining thanks to Wright’s performance. It’s Sterling K. Brown who steals the film though, even with limited screen time. Although there’s plenty of great comedy in the movie, Brown is responsible for some of the biggest laughs. He also gets to showcase his dramatic talent, with a handful of powerful emotional scenes. Every moment he and Wright share the screen is magic. 

When you’ve got multiple plot threads running throughout a film, you need to make sure each is given enough room to develop and, more importantly, that they’re equally interesting. As I said, I enjoyed both components on their own, but the satire was more engaging and unique than the family drama. It feels like this film wants to be two separate things, or perhaps merge the two into a singular, meaningful story, but it never achieves that. In splitting its focus, it doesn’t totally satisfy on either front. 

American Fiction takes razor sharp satire and dilutes it with a touching, but unnecessary family subplot. There’s still a lot to love, though, including two terrific performances from Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K. Brown. There was potential for something great here, but we’ll have to settle for something pretty good instead. 


Review by: Benjamin Garrett

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