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Antebellum (2020) Movie Review

I Write These Movie Reviews Locked in the Trunk of Your Car. Thanks for the Snacks!!

antebellum-2020-movie-review

MPAA Rating

R

Running Time

105 minutes

Directors

Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz

Writers

Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz

For those of you tired of seeing racial injustice, people mired in division and hate, sequence of black people having all kinds of degradation forced on them onscreen by racist white people, then you should see Bill and Ted Face the Music again as it’s still the feel-great movie of the year since a good portion of you are still smart enough not to go to theaters.

But if you still want to see that kind of stuff, albeit in a fictional story of white privilege, slavery (both literal and imagined), selfies, and antebellum plantations then you should see Antebellum, finally making it onto the big screen in your house after months of delays due to the pandemic.

Granted, it’s not particularly good, but you could always go to the theater…

Or you just read a book or see Mulan.

Just kidding about Mulan.

Synopsis

Antebellum opens sometime in the antebellum south. We’re treated to a show-offy long tracking shot of what looks to be a slave plantation. You can practically taste the mint juleps or whatever white slaveowners used to drink back then. We get a quick view of what it’s like for these slaves (it sucks). We wonder what the point of this shot is other than to call attention to itself until we see two slaves trying to escape.

Everyone knows it will not end well for them. It doesn’t.

During that shot we noticed a slave called Eden (Janelle Monae). She feels like she doesn’t belong. She’s curried some degree of favor with the plantation master named Him (Eric Lange). But Eden’s abused her “privilege” by not accepting the name the crackers have given her.

The master puts his brand on her. Eden is quiet. For now.

We learn that this particular plantation is not like the warm and fuzzy plantations other slaves may be used to. One dimensional racist Captain Jasper (Jack Huston) tells a new group of slaves that they will speak only when spoken to by a tiny-d*cked white guy. You get the feeling the grandchildren of some of these officers grew up to be Fox news personalities.

Eden has been looking for a way out since day one, but she feels that the overseers are paying particular attention to her. She’s not wrong.

antebellum-2020-movie-review

Antebellum opens a half-our later in the present day with respected author and speaker Veronika Henley (Janelle Monae) waking up to her husband and daughter. She’s written a book that has racists all up in a tizzy.

Veronika is off to our nation’s capital this morning for a TED talk. Her speech gets a standing ovation but racists still hate her. After the talk she’s off to dinner at a high-end restaurant with her BFF (American Horror Story's Gabourey Sidibe) and her token white friend (White Lady Actor). She gets a bad table because, well, you can guess.

Yes.

But that’s not the worst of it. Veronika is only in town for one night, but she feels that somebody is watching her.

She’s not wrong.

What the hall?

What the hall?

What Works With Antebellum

  • Though her character is pretty broadly written, there’s never a false moment in Janelle Monae’s performance. You feel bad that she’s so good in this because the movie is so…not. Janelle Monae deserved a better movie. You deserved a better movie.
  • Even though they’re nothing but one-dimensional characters, it’s always nice to see racists get killed onscreen. It almost makes slogging through this movie worth it because at least there’s that if nothing else. Or just watch a better movie involving slaves like Django Unchained..

What Doesn’t Work With Antebellum

  • As mentioned before, almost every single one of the white characters are one-dimensional racists whose job is to spew one-dimensional racist lines every time he/she walks into frame. Jack Huston’s character might as well have been called Chad Cracker since he’s playing such a cartoon.
  • Writer/directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz effectively show the horrors of slavery, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a good horror film. Scenes don’t really build on each other and very few of them are mined for actual tension. After you (unfortunately) see it, count the times you were genuinely afraid. I counted once, and that was only when the usually dependable Jena Malone spoke in that atrocious Southern accent.
  • (Possible spoiler)- A twist that might have been a surprise had it not been done in that mediocre M. Night Shyamalan clunker The Village. Don’t worry, the twist is just as implausible now as it was then. Antebellum is barely a better movie than The Village if only because it doesn’t try to have a blind girl find her way alone through the forest.
  • A dreadfully slow first act that introduces Eden and then spins its wheels going nowhere for another 25 minutes. You might be looking online to see that yes, Antebellum is labeled as a horror movie. You might be wondering when the actual scares are going to come. You’ll be wondering that until the credits roll.
antebellum-2020-movie-review

Overall

The obvious horrors of slavery are present in Antebellum. Too bad there are no obvious scares. Antebellum spends most of its running time ramming a message down your throat that it forgets to be scary. The true horror is how tedious this is. Good thing nothing like this is happening to black people today.

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Order Antebellum Here!

Comments

Noel Penaflor (author) from California on September 21, 2020:

Thank you and Thanks for Reading.

drkuldipmengi from Kotkapura on September 21, 2020:

Good informative article i appreciate your hard work