Sometimes, we wish we could go back and relive a particular moment in our lives. Either because we were embarrassed or to have unseen knowledge. Antebellum did not have that kindness in mind for Veronica Henley (portrayed by Janelle Monae): a successful author forced to relive her ancestors’ struggles and hardships as a plantation slave. You know, the “normal” stuff. A name change, forgetting where you came from, and no talking. This twisted Thriller hits you with scary, harsh realities that address current societal issues.
Starting off with the bad, Antebellum overlooks extending performances from bigger name actors and actresses. Stars including Kiersey Clemons, Eric Lange, and the great Gabourey Sidibe often feel pushed to the side or a platform to get a laugh or sympathy, which tends to feel forced on the narrative. Clemons puts on an excellent performance for the little time she had but left me wanting more. The flow felt choppy as if there were scenes that should have made the "theatrical" edit but, in the end, were cut. This movie was missing something more significant.
Now we can move on to the good. Janelle Monae, stunning (as always), and her acting chops are truly evolving. She never fails to bring a type of swagger and elegance to her characters, making them memorable. Her performance as Veronica is a powerful addition into her resume. Jack Huston as Captain Jasper was also great. He played his role well, despite being cruel and punishing to Monae's co-stars. The opening sequence was probably one of my favorite long shots in the movie. The long, dramatic pans and zooms built the tension as we had no idea what was going to unfold next. Every scene, I found my eyes scanning the entire frame to make sure I didn't miss anything!
Finally, the social message behind the film is one that resonates well in today’s social times. Victoria was a driving force in getting the women around her to find their voices and speak up when men tried to silence them. One scene has Victoria sharing an elevator with a little girl. When she speaks to the girl, she is shushed and warned about getting in trouble for talking. This sat heavy with me because Monae has always been outspoken about how women should be equal and speak up for their rights. This said, Monae fits this role effortlessly! Through her music and now portrayed in her acting, she has always been a voice for women inside and outside of her platforms, which still holds true in Antebellum.
All in all, the film is a good watch for a Friday night. It won’t give you horrible nightmares, but it will have you thinking about how people can and should be treated fairly. Antebellum is stimulating, has performances from its lead, and a powerful message to match. My only hope is that with a Blu-ray release, scenes are added to help smooth the story over.
Follow HorrOrigins on Social Media