A wannabe cerebral thriller that doesn’t quite graduate to the complex level many expected, Antebellum is nonetheless an intriguing concept elevated by the performance of Janelle Monáe.
The film finds Monáe’s Veronica on a plantation, surrounded by other Black men and women who have been enslaved to their confederate white captors. If you have seen the trailers, however, you know that all is not what it seems. Antebellum gives viewers a horrific glimpse into slavery and the dangerous discriminatory actions that once were commonplace in the United States. In the end, the film seeks to hold a mirror up to modern times in reflection of the pervasive racist attitudes that manifest themselves through different means today. Monáe is fantastic in her role as a sociologist author focused on diversity issues, carrying each seen with a range of emotions mastered by the best actors today (give her all of the roles!). Gabourey Sidibe, one of the supporting actors with a limited role, is clearly having a blast as the boisterous friend specializing in relationship psychology. She was an absolute pleasure to watch every time she was on screen.
Ultimately, Antebellum does come up short in falling back to a simplistic storytelling that circles the intended message without diving in and hammering it home. Viewers are left wanting to know more about the people and the circumstances that lead to the films events. How did the villains, such as Jena Malone’s character (ignoring the terrible accent), come to be? How have they been able to do what they have done? There is zero character development outside of the focus on Monáe.
Issues aside, Antebellum is a fine movie that honestly hooked me from the very beginning, but it could have been so much more.
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