SYNOPSIS: AMERICAN FICTION is Cord Jefferson's hilarious directorial debut, which confronts our culture’s obsession with reducing people to outrageous stereotypes. Jeffrey Wright stars as Monk, a frustrated novelist who’s fed up with the establishment profiting from “Black” entertainment that relies on tired and offensive tropes. To prove his point, Monk uses a pen name to write an outlandish “Black” book of his own, a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.


Westworld and James Bond actor Jeffrey Wright plays Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, a smart African-American writer and professor from an upper-class family who struggles in the literary world given his taste for writing academic style, unappealing stories.

As a joke or a middle finger to mock the commercial crowd, he wrote a satirical novel that delivers the “black experience” under a fake convict persona which contains the expected gangsta, drugs and crimes elements. It turned out to be a massive success with a promised $750,000 advance from a publisher and a movie adaptation in the pipeline.

At the same time, Monk is facing issues with his loved ones. His sister, Lisa suffers a heart attack, his mother is stricken with dementia and his brother is divorced, cash-strapped and turning into drugs. The money sure comes in handy for Monk but is it good enough to satisfy the artistry and integrity in him?

American Fiction walks the fine line between a family drama and a broad satirical comedy. The entire debacle about a fake felon on the run from the authorities sounds like a silly comedy made for Kevin Hart but Wright steals the show with his sophisticated, non-showy performance as the complicated Monk who kinds of voluntarily estranged from his family after the death of his father.

The interactions between Monk and his agent, Arthur (John Ortiz) brilliantly showcases the stereotyping and prejudices against Blacks and laughingly, a retort at why Hollywood is rapidly going the diversified route. The lines are written sharply by director and screenwriter Cord Jefferson and hilariously delivered by Wright and Ortiz making it a pure delight once these two appear onscreen.

But much of the story is focused on Monk and his remaining family members and his love life with a lawyer named Caroline (Erika Alexander). The most fun award goes to Sterling K Brown playing Monk’s brother, Clifford, a plastic surgeon who is caught in bed with another man by his former wife and now making up for lost time, partying with guys.

With a nomination of 5 Oscars, American Fiction is an uncompromising, “smart” comedy that speaks of social commentary and the universal struggles on love and family.


Review by Linus Tee



Genre: Comedy/Drama
Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Raymond Anthony Thomas, Adam Brody  
Director: Cord Jefferson
Rating: NC16
Year Made: 2023



Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Running Time: 1 hr 58 mins