Toronto Awards Analysis: Social Satire ‘American Fiction’ Makes Contenders of Jeffrey Wright and Cord Jefferson

The awards team at Amazon, as the parent company of MGM, a division of which includes Orion, may have an unexpected awards contender on its hands with Cord Jefferson’s feature directorial debut American Fiction, an adaptation for Orion of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Princess Alexandra Theatre on Friday night.

A sharp and witty look at American racial dynamics — a Black academic (played engrossingly by the great Jeffrey Wright) grows frustrated that the only “Black books” that seem to find a wide (and white) audience are those that tread on stereotypes. So, he writes one himself under a pseudonym. The film plays like a Preston Sturges or Mel Brooks classic, packed with jokes as well as biting social commentary and often had the audience laughing out loud.

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Amazon seemed to be waiting to see how the film played in Toronto before deciding how much of an awards push it ought to get. I think there’s no doubt that the leading performance by Wright (who has somehow never been nominated for an Oscar), supporting turns by Sterling K. Brown and Erika Alexander, and the adaptation by Jefferson merit serious consideration. Up until now, Jefferson has been best known as a TV writer on shows such as Succession and Watchmen, winning an Emmy for the latter.

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