American Fiction (Blu-ray Review)

I love when a movie just feels different from the pack.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, watching and then reviewing films, I find great pleasure in being refreshed by new ones.  It’s very clear that movie fans and especially collectors take a big stake in watching films because they are a comfort to us.  So, what happens when a film is able to warm your heart, then break it, and then make you laugh and feel so warm? American Fiction is just such a film. Read more about American Fiction below and be sure to click the cover art at the end to order yourself a copy!


Based on the novel Erasure by Percival Everett,  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.

There is something just so refreshing about watching a film that plays out in such a manner that you feel as if you’ve lived the situation. This is exactly how the film played out to me.  The writer, Monk, wants more than anything to see his work taken in by a mass audience.  He’s not looking to classify his characters by race or life experience.  Monk is a writer who claims to not truly believe in race. As he stands firm by his ideals though, Monk finds himself hitting these bumps in the road.  He’s offending his students in the college classes he teaches.  He sees other black authors finding success by placating to the mass white audience with hard-times fiction about the black experience. As with The Help, for example, we see white characters eating up another author’s story that has poor grammar and a repetitive and tired story of the hard times in the ghetto.  It’s all certainly ridiculous, however, it isn’t far from the truth.

Alongside all the work stress, Monk loses his sister to a massive heart attack and is then obligated to take care of his sick mother. His estranged brother is struggling himself as he navigates being outed after a lifetime in the closet.  It’s all unfortunate for Monk. Amid everything though, there is Coraline, a neighbor of Monk’s mother, who sees Monk as a great writer and warms to him quickly.  They seem to just get one another so well.  With all that’s going on in his life, Monk decides to decompress and as a joke dawns the pseudonym Stagg R. Leigh and writes a book he calls “My Pafology” and sends it to his agent.  When the agent sends the manuscript out and publishers begin to clamor to publish it, Monk must lean into the pseudonym, dawning a persona of an escaped convict, speaking in a way he never would to people and having the white book publishers evolve into filmmakers who want to film the unpublished book.  When the story inadvertently becomes the darling of the literary world, Monk must decide to either say his truth, or continue his farce.

I watched American Fiction as if I was living my life.  A little backstory – I am of mixed-race origins.  My mother is black, and my father is white.  Growing up, I remember my neighbor friends telling me their parents would say that my father “rescued her from the ghetto.” It was so strange to me.  My mother’s parents worked hard, had a huge house and were not struggling in the literal sense of the word.  She met my father who was fully employed, and she too was working.  There was no rescuing involved.  So why the notion? We were the only family of color on the block.  Assumptions and assimilations were made.  It was the 80’s/90’s – So is that the surprise? Not really. The same thing continued forever. Even in high school, being mixed, I had to be different for different people.  I had to “talk white” or “act white” with my white friends or be more “black” for my black and Latino friends.  They call that code switching now, but there wasn’t a term for it then.

I believe the idea of code switching is partly why I believe I related to Monk so much.  I believe in the importance of being you.  But for me, being your authentic self shouldn’t mean being an assumption.  Monk has the same ideal.  Blackness does not equate a stereotype. We don’t all talk the same, live the same or act the same. Just like with any other culture, there is a variety in the subsect.  To use a very overused term, things are not always black and white, no pun intended.  I can’t say for certain about books, but films about black people almost always focus on the hard times of a certain group.  We have Menace II Society, Boyz N’ The Hood, Poetic Justice, South Central and so many others that focus on deadbeat dads, gang violence, and characters who want to “get up out the ‘hood.” It’s enough to say that those films are all great pieces of cinema. The issue is that these are the films that do well because they focus on a time and place that feels taboo to the people in the audience who don’t live that life. But then we have other films like Eve’s Bayou, Devil in a Blue Dress, The Photograph, or even something like Little where the idea of “the hood” doesn’t even exist.  That for me speaks volumes, because the films in the latter category are telling different stories and yet it feels like those films are not as warmly received.  This is unfortunate, but it brings me back to American Fiction.

American Fiction is the work of writer-director Cord Jefferson.  It feels clear that his tongue was planted further into his cheek than some audiences may understand.  The film falls into the latter category of the ones I mentioned above, and in doing so, Jefferson must have released the film hoping that people would understand the humor of everything. The character of Monk is appalled by the stereotyping.  I no doubt am not the only one who related to that. You see the other characters in the film also not falling into stereotypes.  Monk’s brother is gay, something that is still sadly not the warmest received thing in Black culture.  There is no scene of violence related to the actual characters, more so in Monk’s visions as he writes his pseudonym novel. There are no scenes in a “ghetto” setting.  There are no people speaking “black.”  These are the things that all audiences need to understand. What may be seen as palatable by one audience doesn’t deem the same thing palatable for all.  Jefferson’s film presents a black story without the filler, the cliché and the “ghetto.” This is commendable in so many ways, and something that films featuring people of color could benefit from in the future.

Now, the performances here are also something to talk about Jeffrey Wright in an Oscar nominated performance is quietly mighty, while he meets his match in Erika Alexander, who glows on screen.  We also have Sterling K. Brown as the brother living his best gay life, Leslie Uggams as their mother, Tracee Ellis Ross as the sister we only meet for a brief time, Keith David as Monk’s inner monologue while he writes his pseudonym novel, and Issa Rae as a competing black author who took the bait and made the black novel that white readers wanted. Everyone is compelling here and perfect for their roles.  The last thing I wanted to note is that American Fiction has somehow been touted as a straight-ahead comedy. While there are indeed laughs, I would not classify the film as a comedy. The emotional core of the story reads heavy drama, and even with the laughs, I can’t say this is pure comedy. So, if you’re a first-time viewer, I wouldn’t go into the film looking to have fits of laughter.  This is not a bad thing though, as this eye-opening film was easily one of the finest of 2023, and thankfully, won’t be relegated to Amazon Prime Video to watch it.


NOTE: Stills are provided for promotional use only and are not from the Blu-ray

  • Encoding: MPEG-4/AVC
  • Resolution: 1080P
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • HDR: N/A
  • Clarity/Detail: Just as many other films like it, American Fiction debuts on physical media in a lovely HD Blu-ray. The overall look of the film is cool in tone, but still manages to give off a warm look.  Clarity is second only to a 4K disc for obvious reasons, but nothing looks blurry or flat by any means.
  • Depth: Depth is spot on as well. Foregrounds and backgrounds all look just right, with focus keeping pace with smooth tracking and zooms. Nothing looks weird and the film has been lensed beautifully.
  • Black Levels: Black levels look on par with the rest of the proceedings. No crush, no grey – Blacks look just right!
  • Color Reproduction: Colors look nice and cool. Lots of blues and greys, but there are glimpses of colors looking natural and clean throughout.
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are presented very naturally too. No one on-screen looks out of place or overly made up.
  • Noise/Artifacts: Clean


  • Audio Format(s):  English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
  • DynamicsAmerican Fiction is primarily a dialogue driven film. The DTS-HD 5.1 mix that accompanies the film is sonically mixed quite loud. This doesn’t mean it is distorted, rather you’re able to have your volume level under 50 dB and still hear the film perfectly fine.  This is a mix I didn’t expect to appreciate just based on volume level to start, but everything else falls in line beautifully also!
  • Height: N/A
  • Low Frequency Extension: Music is the main source of LFE activity and that’s just fine. The gorgeous score and the worldwide musical needle drops all sound great with nice bass response filling out the other channels nicely.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds are for light sound effects as much of the film takes place near the beach. City chatter and more pop up at times in the surrounds as well.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Expertly recreated dialogue rings through the film!



There are no extras included with American Fiction.



American Fiction to be very affecting to me.  There is a heavy tone of sadness and disappointment in the film, but there is also a bouncy lightness to it that makes it rife for mass appeal.  Whether audiences get that or not will have to be seen. Who knows who’s been watching it on Prime Video? And if the viewership has been good, did the film happen to also end up being something those audiences understood? The ending of the film leaves things open to interpretation, and thus I shall end my review the same way.  Take from this film what you will, but I was sucked in and I’m glad for that, because it felt so relatable.  Worth a look no matter what your race is, and a reminder that not all films with black casts or stories need to be about the struggle so many people of color must endure.  Must see!

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