The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

We want to hear your voice!

Which school event do you most look forward to this year?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

‘American Fiction’ delivers prickly satire on race

Jeffrey Wright as Thelonious Ellison (commonly referred to as Monk) walking on the beach at the family vacation house in “American Fiction.” (Photo:Orion Pictures)

In a film that examines popular culture representations of African Americans, director Cord Jefferson tells a story in “American Fiction” of racial stereotypes through a satirical and humorous lens. 

The movie, an Oscar nominee for Best Picture, starts by introducing the main character, Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright), an African American college English professor and renowned author. Ellison’s books are critiqued for only appealing to highly educated people, which is why his latest book is turned down by publishers. Monk’s agent, Arthur, tells him that “They [the publishers] want a Black book.” After he has a verbal altercation with a white student, the university makes Monk take a leave of absence.

Once Jefferson adds financial pressures on Monk, the appeal of writing a shallow — but mass market — “Black” book grows into a hard-to-resist temptation at the center of the film. This exemplifies the pressures Monk faces during this film, relating to the stereotypes that African Americans face and the effects of them.

The film’s most noteworthy qualities include a hilariously witty performance by Wright as well as his supporting actors, including Sterling K. Brown as his brother “Cliff.” The film is great when it comes to comedy, but is less successful when it comes to purely dramatic scenes. One of the best angles of the film includes Monk not fitting into White people’s stereotypes of a black man in America, yet he is being pressured to write a book that does.

The cinematography consists of shots of bleak weather to illustrate some of the somber themes, as well as close-ups on characters in emotional scenes. There are also several wide shots that only include Monk, depicting his isolation. The soundtrack with songs such as “Without You” by Ace Spectrum and “Summertime Kind Of Vibe” by Isiah Jones, helps the audience explore the cheerful and whimsical tone of the beginning of the film, as well as more complicated emotions later on in the film.

“American Fiction” would undoubtedly be more entertaining if the film continued down the road of comedic satire mixed with racial themes and prickly humor instead of the somber drama it becomes. The best parts of the film are the messages that Jefferson sends relating to racism and the satirical ways that he does this.

“American Fiction” is a quality film and worth watching if you enjoy comedic angles that can get uncomfortable at times mixed with sorrowful themes. The film also explores racial themes and unfitting stereotypes in a modern American setting. It delves into the inescapability of stereotypes that African Americans face. Due to these layered messages and a hilarious script coupled with great acting performances, Jefferson’s film commands five nominations at the 2024 Oscars.

1 hour 58 minutes

Rated R

Jeffrey Wright as “Monk” Sterling K. Brown as “Cliff” Tracie Ellis Ross as “Lisa” Issa Rae as “Sintara Golden”

Directed by Cord Jefferson

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Kevin O'Brien
Kevin O'Brien, Sports Editor
Kevin O'Brien (Class of 2026) joined The Paly Voice in his sophomore year. Outside of journalism, he enjoys playing basketball and football.

Comments (0)

All The Paly Voice Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *