Jeffrey Wright stars in Cord Jefferson’s adaptation of Percival Everett’s Erasure — a wicked satire about the commodification of marginalized voices and a portrait of an artist forced to re-examine his integrity.
Starring Jeffrey Wright in one of his most beautifully nuanced performances, American Fiction is both a wickedly smart satire about the commodification of marginalized voices and a bittersweet portrait of an artist forced to re-examine the terms of his integrity.
Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Wright) is a respected author and professor of English literature. But his impatience with his students’ cultural sensitivities is threatening his academic standing, while his latest novel is failing to attract publishers; they claim Monk’s writing “isn’t Black enough.” He travels to his hometown of Boston to participate in a literary festival where all eyes are on the first-time author of a bestseller titled We’s Lives In Da Ghetto, a book Monk dismisses as pandering to readers seeking stereotypical stories of Black misery. Meanwhile, Monk’s family experiences tragedy, and his ailing mother requires a level of care neither he nor his trainwreck of a brother (Sterling K. Brown) can afford.
One night, in a fit of spite, Monk concocts a pseudonymous novel embodying every Black cliché he can imagine. His agent submits it to a major publisher who immediately offers the biggest advance Monk’s ever seen. As the novel is rushed to the printers and Hollywood comes courting, Monk must reckon with a monster of his own making.
Adapted from Percival Everett’s novel Erasure, Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut is a wildly entertaining send-up of our hunger for so-called authenticity. Featuring stellar supporting turns from Issa Rae and Erika Alexander, and a string of cheeky cameos, American Fiction is a timely reflection on the fictions we tell ourselves about race, progress, and community.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: mature themes, drug use, coarse language