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American Fiction poster

American Fiction (2024)

A novelist fed up with the establishment profiting from "Black" entertainment uses a pen name to write a book that propels him into the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.
4.5 / 5
4.5 / 5

Incluvie Movie Reviews

Josh Halpern
January 18, 2024
4.5 / 5
4.5 / 5

'American Fiction' Speaks Truth

I’ve not seen The Producers, nor its remake and the hugely successful Broadway show.  But I know the premise.  It’s one of the classic premises in the history of comedy: two producers, aiming to collect profits, put on a show they believe destined to fail. They call it 'Springtime for Hitler.’ But in a shocking turn of events, the musical ends up becoming a huge hit. Instead of offending audiences, it reels them in. It’s a great storyline because it basically seethes satire while depicting American hypocrisy at its finest.

It’s the closest thing I can think of to American Fiction, a new comedy-drama starring Jeffrey Wright, written and directed by Cord Jefferson. I was not aware of Jefferson before this feature film, but he has quite the resume with writer credits on projects such as Station Eleven and Watchmen to name a few. The latter of which he won a writing Emmy for back in 2020. 

Like The Producers, American Fiction is about someone who creates something he believes to be a poor and offensive product only to have it thrown back into his face when it's well-received by the public. With this movie however, there is also commentary about pervasive African-American stereotypes that lack depth and complexity, but appeal to predominantly white audiences.  

Based on a 2001 book titled Erasure by Percival Everett, American Fiction stars Jeffrey Wright as Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison, a struggling writer who works in academia. Big success has eluded him. His most recent novel has been accused of not being ‘black enough.’ He has also been put on leave by fellow faculty due to a confrontation with a student regarding race. There is a funny scene early in the film at a bookstore where an irate Monk moves his books from the ‘African-American Studies’ section to the ‘Philosophy’ section despite protest from an employee.  

It shouldn’t be too much of a spoiler to reveal that roughly 20 minutes into the film Monk faces tragedy with the passing of his sister, Lisa (Tracee Ellis Ross in a great small role). He finds some solace at his family’s beach house where he meets Coraline (Erika Alexander), a neighbor that he begins dating. Soon however, Monk’s world gets a little more complicated when his mother Agnes (Leslie Uggams) develops Alzheimer's. Things only get more complicated from there.

Feeling frustrated that his scholarly work has not found an audience and harboring envy towards successful writer Sintara Golden (Issa Rae), who has achieved recognition by capitalizing on clichéd narratives about African-American history, Monk decides to take a humorous approach. In a jest, he pens a novel titled "My Pafology," delving into the realms of gangsters, murder, and urban melodrama, and submits it to his publisher. Surprisingly, Monk gets a $750,000 offer for the book. Pressured by the huge cost of nursing care for his mother and his agent, Arthur (John Ortiz), Monk accepts the offer. He takes on the pseudonym, Stagg R. Leigh, a reference to a famed murderer in an old American folk song.

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Movie Information

A novelist fed up with the establishment profiting from "Black" entertainment uses a pen name to write a book that propels him into the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.

Genre:Comedy, Drama
Directed By:Cord Jefferson
Written By:Cord Jefferson
In Theaters:1/12/2024
Box Office:$21,976,115
Runtime:117 minutes
Studio:MRC, T-Street, 3 Arts Entertainment, Almost Infinite



Cord Jefferson



Jeffrey Wright

Thelonious 'Monk' Ellison


John Ortiz



Erika Alexander



Leslie Uggams

Agnes Ellison


Sterling K. Brown

Clifford Ellison


Skyler Wright



John Ales



Patrick Fischler



Carmen Cusack



Joseph Marrella

Matthew Wilson


Stephen Burrell

Jordan Phillips