American Fiction by Cord Jefferson [8/10]

Criminally, I have never read any of Percival Everett’s acclaimed and wildly eclectic novels, but after relishing American Fiction, based on Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure, I shall redress my errors. For this is one smart, genuinely funny (and that is something rare, I find) satire on Black novelists in America. The storyline is simple: Thelonius “Monk” Ellison, a serious literary novelist with acclaim but few book sales, spits the dummy and dashes out a crass Blaxploitation novel under what he feels sure is a transparent pseudonym, only to find himself the “next new big thing” of the literary scene. Writer/director Jefferson Cord, working with what is clearly a savage Everett blueprint, spins a fast, always oblique tale that fleshes out the satire with side dramas of family tensions and new love. The heart of the film’s success, however, is Jeffrey Wright’s pitch perfect rendition of Monk, allied to a surprisingly large roster of perfectly cast, sophisticated actors. The ending, a very “literary” piece of cleverness, fits in seamlessly with American Fiction’s wittiness and depth. Highly recommended even for those perhaps sick of movies about authors.

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