To be sure, this movie is daring and provocative. Done poorly, the film had the potential of being a box office bust. However, this is a directorial masterpiece by Cord Jefferson which is bolstered by acting performances that could bring any screenplay to life.
The movie is an adaptation of Everett’s novel, “Erasure” (2001) and involves a satirical look at African-American stereotypes and how they are woven into the fabric of American pop culture. At the same time, there is a focus upon a family that, while being largely dysfunctional, effectively draws the movie-goer’s sympathy. Indeed, most viewers will be able to recognize family dynamics from their own life experiences.
In short, the film is about a professor who has had tremendous difficulty publishing a novel which is read by more than just a handful of people. Perhaps out of spite for the publishing industry or as the ultimate joke, he anonymously writes a book complete with all of the well-known African-American stereotypes. He is flummoxed when it actually becomes an instant hit, far beyond the success of any of his past novels! What follows in the story is for you to see and experience such that I am trying to avoid spoilers here.
This movie triumphs in acting, from top to bottom. The main character, “Monk”, portrayed by Jeffrey Wright is a cynical writer and professor who drives people away through his bluntness and transparency. His direct insults serve to put a great deal of distance between himself and others. On a lighter note, he has such a wry wit that leaves the audience laughing throughout the film. Although his background in film has largely been in supporting roles, he handles the central character role so effortlessly that he should receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. As for other acting notables, Sterling Brown portrays Cliff brings to life a highly complex character who also is transparent like his brother when he exclaims, “This family will break your heart!” He brings a tremendous amount of humor and levity, even in some of the more serious and tense parts of the movie. Finally, it was a delight to see the seasoned veteran, Leslie Uggams”, on the screen as the Alzheimer’s-stricken mother of Monk and Cliff. Having personally had a mother with that cruel disease, I can say with the utmost confidence that her portrayal is no less than exemplary. In her role, she avoids the one-dimensional stereotypes of those who have Alzheimer’s which is oftentimes seen on the big screen.
On an unfortunate note, I found the ending to be a bit awkward. Nevertheless, it was clever and entertaining. I predict that this film will “have legs” such that, through word of mouth, box office returns will continue to rise for the weeks and months to come, especially following the Golden Globes and Oscar ceremonies. I will be dutifully watching these award shows and prepared to toast the film as it has a legitimate opportunity to land Oscar nominations in Best Actor, Best Director, and, yes, even Best Picture. These and other potential award “nods” are very well deserved!
About The Peetimes: It was challenging to find good Peetimes because there are a lot of ensemble scenes, particularly with the family (and these scenes are not to be missed, if at all possible). By a longshot, I consider the second Peetime to be the very best. Secondarily, the first Peetime would be my choice. The third Peetime is the least optimal “time to go” of the three.
|(R) Some Drug Use | Brief Violence | Sexual References | Language Throughout
|Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, John Ortiz
|Cord Jefferson, Percival Everett
A novelist who’s fed up with the establishment profiting from “Black” entertainment uses a pen name to write a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.
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