There was a lot of promise behind this film from the producers of Get Out and Us, but unfortunately it lacks the vision of those films’ creator Jordan Peele.
Instead we’re offered some admittedly stunning and shocking images of America’s slavery past and how it coincides with the current state of affairs from the supposed land of opportunity.
Both of these world’s alone resonate deeply the physical pains of the past and how the mental scars are still very much in the present. The problem in the narratives depiction comes with the marrying of these two worlds through the eyes of the film’s protagonist played by an incredible Janelle Monae. One can not fault her performance as she clearly pushes her every ounce of emotion and deserves praise for this alone. It’s just a shame that this is overshadowed by the clunkiness of the film’s exposition.
The premise presented to the audience is that Monae plays a modern African American woman, Veronica, trapped in a 19th century slave plantation run by the Confederate States Army. Straight away the audience has to endure the stark brutality and the tight reins that are forced upon the slaves who must not speak unless spoken to and any signs of “misbehaviour” could lead to a fatal outcome of the slaves do not tow the line.
As the story unfolds, the audience soon starts to question how the premise fits into the overall story arc. Is Veronica trapped in a time warp or God forbid, are we about to embark on M. Night Shyamalan The Village venture?
Unfortunately the story centres strangely towards the latter and by the time the reveal occurs, we no longer care and a little rushed to a conclusion that all too neatly into this declaration, which is probably the most horrific thing about the movie. By coming out with such strong imagery, the storyteller is left with not much left to shock its audience and we’re left playing the guessing game and neglecting the core message at hand.
Hats off to the support performance of Gabourey Sidibe who steals every scene she is in. I wish more could be said for Jack Huston and Jena Malone, who are equally proficient actors but grossly underused in this instance.
A mismatch of style and substance combined with a weak fusion of the obvious similarities between past and present allows the key message to feel too heavily handled and lost in the complexities of what should have been a very straight forward premise.
Based on Monae’s acting alone though, she should have no qualms about her future and promises to continue to deliver some more powerhouse performances.
- Saul Muerte