American Fiction (2023)

Directed by Cord Jefferson

A novelist fed up with the establishment profiting from "Black" entertainment uses a pen name to write a book that propels him into the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.

OK, so why doesn't he just write Johnny Walker Black instead?

More seriously, though, this felt somewhat like a wasted opportunity to satirise the literary establishment, not least of all because limits its focus to one (aggressively middlebrow) part. I dunno, it also seems a little... unfair? I mean, I've read some of the kinds of books that American Fiction seems to be sending up and would share some of the film's attitude towards them. But I've also read many others that I likely wouldn't have been published without this apparently worrying trend. It's also odd that commissioning editors are depicted as fawning, misguided but ultimately sincere, whilst in reality I suspect contemporary market conditions and corporate priorities make them a pretty amoral bunch.


Where Everett stacks up reverberating ironies that lead the protagonist to an existential crisis, Jefferson resorts more to sitcom-style shorthand. The central joke is stretched thin, especially in the late scenes of Monk’s interactions with a mostly white literary jury […]. A braver approach, in contrast, might have updated the satire to address not only the clichéd depictions of slavery and contemporary urban life highlighted here, but the extraordinary appeal to white audiences […].

Alex Ramon (Sight & Sound)


I think for a Black movie to be good it needs to appeal to white people a little less. Come along for the ride, I guess, but stop demanding we stop at Cracker Barrel every exit. American Fiction is a movie about the limits of white taste built to appeal to white taste, which is why the Black women are pathetically thin caricatures and Adam Brody is onscreen so much. American Fiction feels like a can of soup watered down to stretch across too many meals so that the taste bears no resemblance to what the label promised.

Celia Mattison (In The Mood)


Erasure is a great book that's hard to praise because it so mercilessly mocks the language of praise. Everett's target isn't just mainstream publishing or film hacks, it's bullshit of all kinds.

— Nicole Flattery (Sight & Sound)


American Fiction is watered-down, unexciting, and nonabrasive. Its unclever title is an example of the film’s basic strategy, which is to take material that might offend people, material that was in fact designed to offend people, and update it for a world that demands to not be offended.

A. S. Hamrah (n+1)