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Laugh-out-loud funny, it shines light on ridiculous knot entertainment industry gets itself in

American Fiction

(15) 117min

★★★★☆

WE currently live in a society where being your “true self” is all the rage.

Be it based on sexuality, ethnicity or political ideology, the masses are keen on discussing, well, themselves.

Jeffrey Wright as Thelonious 'Monk' Ellison and Erika Alexander as CoralineCredit: Alamy

But what if being you isn't interesting enough?

This is the problem Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) finds himself in.

The deeply frustrated writer and professor has a new novel out that simply isn't capturing the public imagination.

His agent Arthur (John Ortiz) tells him that publishers are after “a Black book”.

grumpy stoic

“But I’m black and it’s my book!” is Monk's response.

At a convention, he then watches an audience of superfans give a standing ovation to a brand-new author (Issa Rae) for her book entitled We's Lives In Da Ghetto.

She is hailed for speaking “her truth” and shining a light on black lives.

Furious at this limited and often damaging portrayal of black people, Monk drinks some large measures of whiskey one night and decides to have a go at writing his own, clichéd tale.

It is one set in the hood, with rappers, crack, guns and deadbeat dads.

He entitles it, deliberately misspelled, My Pafology, and sends it off to his agent as a joke.

Soon, it's no laughing matter as the book achieves instant success and, with Hollywood fighting over film rights, Monk has to hide his true self, pretending to be an escaped convict who wrote the story.

Meanwhile, Monk's private life is crumbling as a sudden family tragedy means he has to return home to take care of his dependent mother (Leslie Uggams) while his chaotic, drunk brother (Sterling K. Brown) is too broken and self-absorbed to help.

This heartstring-pulling and whip-smart film is a debut from award-winning writer Cord Jefferson, adapted from the 2001 novel Erasure by Percival Everett.

Often laugh-out-loud funny, it shines a light on the ridiculous knot the entertainment industry gets itself in, in a bid to be inclusive and not offend while doing the complete opposite.

Wright's performance as the grumpy but stoical Monk is a pleasure to witness and you leave wanting to spend more time with him.

The ending feels a little bumpy and disconnected, but this pretty wonderful ride really does know itself.

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Area Of Interest

(12A) 106mins

★★★☆☆

WHEN discussing the horrors of the Holocaust, the question “How did they sleep at night?” is often floated about Nazis

If this adaptation of Martin Amis's 2014 novel is to be believed, the answer is: Very well indeed

Christian Friedel as Rudolf Hoss in Zone Of InterestCredit: PA

It is the story of Auschwitz commander Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) who runs the concentration camp, before returning to his luxurious home – which is just next door.

His wife Hedwig (Sandra Huller) is hungry for more excess, asking for holidays in Italy and having the fur coats of Jewish prisoners delivered to her to try on.

While the camp atrocities are never shown, the sounds of shots being fired, screams and billowing smoke leave you in no doubt of the horrors unfolding behind the wall.

Yet the Höss family barely reacted as they chatted about gardening.

But I never felt fully engaged in even one of the characters, so I simply became a voyeur into the family's life.

I'm aware that – possibly because of its timing – many have found this picture incredibly profound.

However, its slow pace, lack of dialogue and testing long silences didn't always maintain my interest.

Migration

(U) 91mins

★★★☆☆

THE White Lotus creator Mike White is back in the kids' movie arena with animated Migration.

It might not be as memorable as School Of Rock but his script does have some pretty magical flourishes.

Migration is about a family of ducks who try to convince their overprotective father to go on the vacation of a lifetimeCredit: Alamy

The amiable story treads on the familiar “overprotective parent” territory as a family of mallards in New England never migrate for the winter because dear ol' dad Mack (Kumail Nanjiani) is a scaredy bird.

Convinced to face his fears, he leads his wife Pam (Elizabeth Banks), kids Dax (Caspar Jennings) and Gwen (Tresi Gazal), plus Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito), on an adventure through New York to Jamaica.

The excellent voice cast, directed by Benjamin Renner, bring slapstick, comedic energy even as the simple plot meanders into bizarre obstacles, though some of the supporting characters are hit and miss.

Carol Kane's wacky heron is an early treat but David Mitchell's yoga-teaching duck barely registers.

The animation is gorgeous, with some whimsical flying sequences, however Migration doesn't fully exhilarate your senses.

Still, it's worth a gander.

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