Today, I’m talking about a newer film that I haven’t gotten around to until now. It’s Antebellum. This movie, man. I had the weirdest experience with it, because after seeing it, I was honestly kind of blown away. I had the greatest time with it, went online to see what others thought, and low and behold, critics hate it! They hate it! Rotten Tomatoes has it scored at 28%. Other critics that I’m subscribed to on YouTube have been underwhelmed, and here I am thinking they must have seen a different film than I did because it was actually one of the best experiences with film I’ve had all year. It’s profoundly confusing to me that others get nothing out of this movie. Even after I review the thing, I doubt I’ll find the quaesitum. Let’s get crackin!
This review is brought to you by the word of the day: Quaesitum.
The answer to a problem.
Antebellum primarily interweaves two stories that seem to be going on simultaneously. One appears to take place in the deep south during the height of slavery as one woman named Eden tries desperately to discover a surefire way to escape captivity while the other story seems to takes place in present day, with another woman named Veronica, played by the same actress as she works as a sociologist trying to give black women a voice. Throughout the film, each woman deals with a number of mysteries where past and present seem to collide in more ways than one.
This movie is incredibly difficult to talk about without giving everything away. Right from the get go, there are mysteries and revelations as to what’s actually happening in this film that are honestly kind of nuts. It’s simply a movie that would be a whole heck of a lot easier to talk about if I could just spoil you…but alas, I won’t do that. Just know plotwise, I consider this movie to be really smart and original, and the political social commentary on where this world could be heading towards isn’t lost on me. That’s one thing I keep seeing from reviews, that they felt the movie was more random than it was clear, but I argue that instead, it’s subtle. Not everything has to be heavy-handed in order for you to understand it. Race is the common denominator in this film, whether you’re watching Eden try to escape from captivity or Veronica get her voice heard. Everything surrounds race. In both stories, you have people that clearly hate others based on the color of their skin, and obviously the thing I can’t tell you about this movie is how the stories connect on a grander scale.
Past the plot part of the film, you’re looking at the acting, which contains some of the best performances I’ve seen all year. These people are really stinking good at what they do. The production and costume design of the era each story takes place in is strikingly well-done. The visuals of the lighting and cinematography is gorgeous. The editing swapping back and forth from the past to the present is expertly handled. From a purely cinematic standpoint, this film stands out, and that alone would have me scoring this movie higher than critics, but there’s so much more to the movie. This is incredibly meaningful, incredibly tense, incredibly relevant. Its brutality and injustice mirrors the things that actually happened in our past AND present, especially when you’re talking about police brutality towards the black community. It is completely lost on me as to how anybody can watch this movie, miss out on these things, and then call the whole thing mediocre at best.
Truthfully, I have a hard time finding anything negative in the movie. Most of the areas in my scoring spreadsheet that didn’t get full points were all just technicalities, things that were neither good or bad, like with the individual importance of the characters. There’s a lot of side characters that don’t really contribute that much to the story, only does Eden or Veronica, honestly. Like the dialogue of the film, which I gave half points to for the same reason. Nothing great nor horrible there. The music and sound? It fits the theme of the film, but it isn’t anything I would like to hear again. The narrative resolution is fine, too, but it doesn’t return to a new sense of norm. Not really, anyway. I don’t know, this is what I mean by technical scores. That my end score isn’t perfect by any means, but nothing outwardly stands out as specifically bad, either.
So what is that end score? Let’s break it down. From an unbiased, technical level, I think this film shines. I think it did everything it needed to do and then some. It’s a gorgeous, meaningful, tense, original film that had me on the edge of my seat all night. I watched this late, and I had every belief in the world that I was probably going to pause it so I could go to sleep, but it captivated me so much. I had to stay up. I had to see how this would play out. That score is 86%. My personal biased score is really similar to that at 84% because this film blew my mind. I had such a great time with it overall. My total score is 85%, 85 out of 100 possible stars, or a B letter grade.
I was lured into this story, these characters, and the subtle messages it had to tell. I don’t know, nor do I think I’ll ever know why this didn’t click very well with audiences everywhere, but maybe you can let me know. What are your thoughts on Antebellum? Did you enjoy it as much as I did, or are you more like the critics that just didn’t get it and thought the whole thing was pointless? And until next time…