Antebellum | Chicago Reader
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Antebellum

Sharing a smidgen of DNA with Kindred, one of Hugo Award-winning science fiction author Octavia Butler’s seminal works, Antebellum very much wants to say something profound, and ultimately ends up saying, “Racism is bad and Janelle Monáe is fabulous,” both of which should be nearly universal truths. Representing the directorial debut for writers Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, Antebellum attempts to create a psychological thriller about modern-day slavery, yet an unripe script and ineffective editing end upcreating two separate narratives without enough connective tissue or thematic thrust to build coherence. The more entertaining half of the film follows Monáe as she saunters through the life of famous activist author Veronica Henley. We watch as she sits for a stunning Vogue photoshoot: switching out gorgeous outfits while perched on the counter in her breathtaking Architectural Digest home; eating a picturesque pancake breakfast with her handsome, helpful husband (Marque Richardson), and her perfectly adorable and well-behaved child. I immediately maxed out my credit card shopping for impeccable red pantsuits. Gabourey Sidibe and Lily Cowles play BFFs Dawn and Sarah respectively. The most enjoyable scene of the movie involves the three having a hilariously bubbly Girls’ Night Out, hinting at an alternate universe of a more fun movie that could have been, and begs for a future comedic career for Sidibe. The less entertaining half includes predictably painful scenes of slavery, an attempt at a twist ending, and a final scene of comeuppance that could have been really badass if there had been any emotional investment in the characters.

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