A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The film focuses on why it's important to be open to truly learning about people different from yourself. It can be very hurtful to not want to know people for who they really are, without stereotypes.
Positive Role Models
The characters aren't necessarily positive or negative, but many exhibit true curiosity and open-mindedness toward others. That said, most main characters, including Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, aren't very open or compassionate with each other. Thelonious is acerbic and closed-off for much of the film, which makes him lose relationships. He also concocts a scheme to get back at the publishing world for denying his book. But his main issue -- that the mainstream still sees Blackness through a stereotypical lens -- is one that he's right to challenge. Secondary characters, such as housekeeper Lorraine and Thelonious' girlfriend, Coraline, are kind and thoughtful, serving as foils to Monk and his family's brokenness.
Main cast members are Black and Brown, and script is based on book Erasure by Black author Percival Everett. Director-writer Cord Jefferson is Black, and the film is about a Black American experience from the point of view of Black creators. It details how difficult it can be for Black creators to get nonstereotypical work sold and marketed to the masses. Explores how stereotypes shape the way we see ourselves and one another and focuses on how stereotypes still shape Blackness in the White consciousness. Main character's gay brother, Clifford (Sterling K. Brown), is a little stereotypical—i.e., shown partying with men dressed in Speedos and snorting coke—but he does have his own backstory and a bit of character development. Several women in supporting roles are independent and empowered, but they revolve around male characters.
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Violence & Scariness
A few scenes of imagined violence (including gun violence, though none of it happens in the "reality" of the characters' lives). Coarse references to an off-screen death by suicide ("blew his brains out").
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing, partial male nudity (bare chests, Speedo swimsuits). Lewd sexual jokes that include the words "f--k" and "fellate."
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Language includes "goddamn," "hell," "bitch," "a--hole," "douche," "bulls--t," "horses--t," "f--k," "f---ing," "motherf----r," "tight-ass." The "N" word is used in both colloquial and historical contexts. Exclamatory uses of "Christ on a crutch," "oh my God," "Jesus Christ."
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Products & Purchases
A character uses Johnnie Walker products to demonstrate a point.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A character snorts cocaine in two scenes. Other scenes have drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that American Fiction is a dramedy about a Black writer (Jeffrey Wright) who decides to write a stereotypical book to prove a point about the publishing world's view of Black stories. Expect frequent use of strong language ("goddamn," "a--hole," "f--k," the "N" word, "oh my God," and more) and scenes with kissing, partial male nudity, drinking, and cocaine use. There are a few scenes of imagined violence, including gun violence and references to an off-screen death by suicide. The film features Black and Brown actors in a story about what it means to be a Black creator and consumer in a country that still holds flattened views of Black American life. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a funny, acerbic, and sadly true dramedy about the state of various aspects of the U.S. entertainment industry and what many believe "the authentic Black experience" to be. Director-writer Cord Jefferson's script is one that many Black creators and consumers can likely relate to: On the one hand, it's great to have your work accepted by the mainstream, as that often leads to money and more opportunities. But, on the flip side, what does it mean to be accepted if, to do so, you must sell a stereotypical version of yourself and your culture? American Fiction dives deep into that conundrum while skewering White liberalism in the process and noting how too many people who claim to be "woke" are really still asleep when it comes to actually listening to Black voices. (Indeed, one scene in the movie literally has a woman say that she feels it's important to listen to Black voices while ignoring the opinions of the Black people in the room.)
The movie's ending might leave some viewers feeling dissatisfied, but its open-endedness could lead to a lot of thoughtful discussion. No matter how it ends, American Fiction is a dynamic work that acts as a release valve for Black people who are tired of seeing the same stories get told over and over again in the media.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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