Film Review – Antebellum (2020)

Title – Antebellum (2020)

Directors – Gerard Bush & Christopher Renz (feature debuts)

Cast – Janelle Monáe, Jack Huston, Jena Malone, Eric Lange, Gabourey Sidibe

Plot – Successful modern day author Veronica Henley (Monae) finds herself in a horrifying reality where past atrocities of the slave era America come to life in a whole new way.

“The unresolved past can certainly wreak havoc on the present”

Review by Eddie on 02/10/2020

If you’d seen any of the trailers or marketing for Antebellum in the previous few months you’d be excused for thinking this was a genuine horror film with mind-bending plot twists but the film we have now as a finished product is sure to leave many confused and disappointed despite there being a great concept deep down somewhere in this messy offering.

A visually splendid film that starts off in great fashion only to turn into a forty plus minute experience in slavery torture drama 101, that then transforms into a modern day stretch that will test the patience of even the most patient and undemanding of viewers, Antebellum squanders its chance to deliver something profound and unexpected as it heads on its way to The Village like territory of genre filmmaking where we spend far too long on a journey to a pay-off that will cause further frustrations rather than celebrations.

Music video directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz try their best to enliven proceedings with some great visual flourishes and some moody set-pieces but their interesting work behind the camera is unable to make amends for the films lack of good characters or development, shoddy pacing and a tension free feeling despite the films thriller and horror elements rearing their heads occasionally throughout the films arduous runtime.

Front and centre for most of the film is rising star Janelle Monae who gets duel roles as modern day author Veronica and slavery era Eden, in what acts as a disappointing chance for the talented performer to showcase her skills on the big stage.

Originally intended for a semi high profile cinematic run that was scuttled at the last minute in favour of a safer bet via a VOD release in many key markets, Antebellum could’ve been Monae’s big break after noted turns in the likes of Hidden Figures, Moonlight and Harriet but she has little to work with here with both Veronica and Eden rather cold figures, both of whom are unable to capture us in any significant way.

As we viewers trudge through the hard to bare film’s opening and middle sections, there’s a faint hope that where we are being taken too is going to make it all worth it but with Gabourey Sidibe’s detestable supporting turn as one of Veronica’s closest friends fresh in our mind and a realization that most of the films screen time is nothing but wasted reels of film, Antebellum’s lackluster ending sums up a film that was unable to create any magic around its intriguing central idea.

Final Say – 

Neither a horror or a thriller that can provide any actual thrills, Antebellum wants to be a genre film with a message but all it ends up achieving is a resounding sense of a missed opportunities.

1 mobile phone out of 5   

2 responses to “Film Review – Antebellum (2020)

  1. “Music video directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz try their best to enliven proceedings with some great visual flourishes and some moody set-pieces but …”

    ~ I was just thinking the other day that successful music video directors used to be household names (Hype Williams, Joseph Kahn, Michel Gondry) and just like supermodels of the 80s through heroine chic Kate Moss, they’ve fallen off the attention of mainstream media attention as they’re supplanted by social media influencers and reality TV personalities. It absolutely makes sense that Antebellum would *look* amazing and have on-point mise-en-scene without any of the quality writing that a good film demands.

    I wonder if they’d have ended up with something stronger if someone had just written the script into a song and told the directors, “okay, so think of it as making a 2 hr long music video.”

    • It’s pretty amazing to think of the quality of directors that got their start in the 80’s and 90’s in the music video game.

      This film was a real visual treat in a lot of scenes but lacked serious storytelling smarts.
      E

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