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At The Movies: The reality of “Fiction”

“American Fiction” is a knowing satire on the business of book-publishing and Hollywood movie-making.

When African-American professor Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) is told to take a leave of absence from the Los Angeles college where he teaches because of his harsh reprimands of students in his class, his income is jeopardized.

Monk is a published author, but has not made a living at his craft.

He attends a lecture by successful African-American author Sintara Golden (Issa Rae), whose book, “We’s Lives in Da Ghetto,” takes place in the inner-city, emphasizes struggles of African-Americans, but glamorizes the thug life of gangs, guns and drug-dealing gore.

Monk has a doctorate. His African-American family is upper-middle class. Monk’s elderly mother Agnes (Leslie Uggams), is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Monk’s mother needs long-term care.

When Monk’s sister Lisa (Tracee Ellis Ross), who is a doctor, dies, Monk’s financial pressures mount. Monk decides to write a street-smart novel of his own.

Much to his dismay and that of his book agent Arthur (John Ortiz), Monk’s book, “My Pafology,” written under the pen name, Stagg R. Leigh, gets an immediate publishing offer, becomes a best-seller and is optioned for a major motion picture by producer Wiley (Adam Brody).

Subplots, in addition to the challenge of Monk’s mother’s medical problems, include disagreements between Monk and his gay brother Cliff (Michael B. Jordan), a budding romance between Monk and an attorney, Coraline (Erika Alexander), and the rekindling of a relationship between Monk’s mother’s caregiver, Lorraine (Myra Lucretia Taylor) and a security guard.

“American Fiction” is directed by first-time feature film director Cord Jefferson (screenwriter, TV’s “The Good Place,” 2017-2019 ) from a screenplay he wrote based on the novel, “Erasure” (2001) by Percival Everett.

Jefferson directs in a breezy style reminiscent of director Albert Brooks (born 1947).

The screenplay, with humorous asides, responses and retorts, is not unlike that of a Neil Simon (1927-2018) stage play or movie comedy.

The setting of the movie, mostly in the seacoast area near Boston, Mass., where Monk visits his ailing mother, provides a pleasant locale and backdrop.

Jeffrey Wright (“Asteroid City,” 2023; “The Batman,” 2022; “Broken Flowers,” 2005) is a thinking man’s actor. His countenance is that of reflection and introspection. It’s as if he’s a thought or two ahead of everyone else in the room. He can speak volumes with a wry eye. Wright creates an indelible impression, no matter the role and none more so than in “American Fiction.”

Sterling K. Brown (“Black Panther,” 2018; Emmy nominee, 2019, 2020, 2021, TV’s “This Is Us,” 2016-2022) is hilarious and riveting.

The entire cast is excellent.

The soundtrack by Laura Karpman (composer, “The Marvels,” 2023; “Emmy nominee, TV’s “Mrs. Marvel,” 2023) has a light jazzy flair.

While the characters that Monk is writing about are stereotypes, the characters in the film, “American Fiction,” are not. It’s refreshing to see contemporary African-American characters on the movie screen who are depicted as real persons and not as caricatures.

“American Fiction” is thought-provoking, entertaining and a movie that should be on your watch list.

“American Fiction” received five Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Jeffrey Wright), Best Supporting Actor (Sterling K. Brown), Best Adapted Screenplay (Cord Jefferson) and Best Original Score (Laura Karpman).

“American Fiction,”

MPAA Rated R (Restricted Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.) for language throughout, some drug use, sexual references and brief violence; Genre: Comedy, Drama; Run Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes; Distributed by MGM.

Credit Readers Anonymous:

The “American Fiction” opening credits include illustrations pertaining to movie scenes and characters. “American Fiction” was filmed in Boston, Brookline and Scituate, Mass., the latter a seacoast town in Plymouth County.

At The Movies:

“American Fiction” was seen in the standard format at AMC Center Valley 16.

Theatrical Movie Domestic Weekend Box Office,

Feb. 2-4: “Argylle” opened at No. 1, with $18 million in 3,605 theaters. 2. “The Chosen: 54 Episodes 1-3,” opening, $6 million in 2,263 theaters. 3. “The Beekeeper” dropped one place, $5.2 million in 3,277 theaters, $49.4 million, four weeks. 4. “Wonka” dropped one place, $4.7 million in 2,901 theaters, $201.1 million, eight weeks. 5. “Migration” dropped one place, $4.1 million in 2,830 theaters, $106.1 million, seven weeks. 6. “Mean Girls” dropped five places from its three-week No. 1 run, $4 million in 3,107 theaters, $66.3 million, four weeks. 7. “Anyone But You” dropped two places, $3.5 million in 2,619 theaters, $76.2 million, seven weeks. 8. “American Fiction” continued its Oscar nominee bounce, with five Oscar nominations, including best picture and actor (Jeffrey Wright), moving up one place, $2.3 million in 1,902 theaters, $15 million, eight weeks. 9. “Poor Things” Oscar nominee bounce appears short-lived, with 11 Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actress (Emma Stone), dropping three places, $2.1 million in 1,950 theaters, $28.1 million, nine weeks. 10. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” dropped three places, $2 million in 1,742 theaters, $120.7 million, seven weeks.

Movie box office information from Box Office Mojo as of Feb, 4 is subject to change.



“Lisa Frankenstein,”

PG-13: Zelda Williams directs Kathryn Newton, Liza Soberano, Jenna Davis, Joshua Montes, Carla Gugino and Henry Eikenberry in the Comedy Romance Horror film from a screenplay by Diablo Cody (Oscar, original screenplay, “Juno, 2008) . A teen-age girl and her crush, who comes back to life, embark on a journey.

Movie opening date information from Internet Movie Database as of Feb, 4 is subject to change.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

CONTRIBUTED IMAGE BY MGM Write on: Jeffrey Wright (Thelonious “Monk” Ellison), “American Fiction”