Vol. 17, No. 13 – Mar 20 – April 2, 2024 – Movie Review

Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
American Fiction – MGM & Rent or Buy

4 out of 4 palm trees

American Fiction” is the story of well-educated black college professor and author Monk Ellison (Jeffery Wright) who was frustrated and challenged by a world around him that continued to support the outrageous stereotypes of black culture in American. Even the books he had written were shelved in the African American section of the bookstore, though the only black thing about most of them was the ink. Following a couple of incidents where Monk crushed the sensitivities of some students in his class of Literature of the American South, he was given some mandatory time off and through a string of unexpected events became the popular center of all he despised.

During Monk’s time off, he had already been scheduled to attend a writers conference in Boston, where he was part of a panel of authors that was meagerly attended due to the presence of another black author Sintara Golden (Issa Rae), who had just written a bestseller called “We’s Lives in Da Ghetto” filled with black stereotypes and ethnic language. Boston was also where his family resided and though Monk didn’t generally spend much time with them he took advantage of connecting with them while he was there.

Unfortunately, his sister Lisa (Tracee Ellis Ross) had a heart attack while they were at lunch and passed away shortly thereafter in the hospital. Lisa had tried to tell Monk that their mother Agnes (Leslie Uggams) was suffering from memory loss, and the point was driven home after Lisa’s funeral when their mom flooded the house while sitting in front of a bathtub of running water. Monk took his mom in for tests that revealed she had medical indications of early Alzheimer and that her situation would only deteriorate, recommending that the family seek a care facility soon.

With his sister gone and his brother on the verge of divorce, it was up to Monk to find and finance his mother’s care. Due to his mounting family issues and seeming frustration over Sintara’s success, Monk had a few strong drinks and decided to write his own book of black stereotypes filled with drugs, guns, deadbeat dads and gang violence, and called it “My Pafology” under the pen name Stagg R. Leigh. He sent it to his manager who said it would never get published, but Monk said he wrote it as a joke and didn’t care and wanted it submitted to publishers.

To both their shock and surprise not only did a reputable publisher want to publish the book, they wanted to offer Monk $750,000 believing that it would definitely be a bestseller. To see how far he could push the publishers, he insisted that the book be renamed to “F**K”, to which they excitedly agreed. “F**K” became a bestseller and Monk didn’t disclose to anyone that he was actually Stagg R. Leigh, not his girlfriend or any family, and was eventually chosen to be a judge for the annual Literary Award for which “F**K” was in consideration for though Monk did not support it.

Monk was again shocked that three out of the five judges voted for “F**K”, leaving Monk and Sintara on the losing side, and so it was decided by popular vote that the book won. Side stories were being circulated that Stagg was a wanted fugitive and the FBI even contacted Monk’s manager, though he didn’t reveal the true details. Riding on the wave of bestselling success and constant publicity, Monk was eventually offered millions to make a movie from the book. At this point, all Monk could do was concede to the tremendous success of what he considered a joke.

American Fiction” received five Academy Award Nominations, including for Best Picture and for Best Actor-Jeffrey Wright, and ended up winning one Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Runtime: 1h 57m

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