Antebellum is a truly embarrassing debut film from writer/director duo Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz. It proudly proclaims that it’s from the producers of Get Out, and indeed Sean McKittrick is one of the two producers from that film who produced this piece of trash. I have a huge amount of good will towards McKittrick, because he has produced all of Richard Kelly’s films to date as well as Bobcat Goldthwaite’s brilliant satires World’s Greatest Dad and God Bless America. Given the fact that McKittrick is wiling to produce risky films, I salute him—but this is a total trainwreck.
Popstar turned actress Janelle Monáe stars as a young woman who we first see as Eden, a slave on a Louisiana planation. She is obviously brutalised by her captors, but there is a twist that is straight out of a certain 2004 M. Night Shyamalan film… which happens to just be a better film in every way, including the handling of the twist. The twist in Antebellum comes pretty early on in the picture. I already knew what it was before I saw it (thanks Twitter!), but it’s pretty obvious from the get-go. It’s a film that thinks it’s some great statement on the African-American experience in 2021. But unfortunately, the writing is embarrassingly poor, with nothing original or interesting to say, just regurgitated buzzwords from a class the filmmakers took in intersectionality at whatever over-priced liberal arts college they attended. You can tell the writer/directors spend all their time on the woke parts of Twitter and thinks that’s “real life.”
The performances from the cast are OK, I guess, Monáe certainly has charisma, but she’s been given a nothing role, Jena Malone (also a Donnie Darko alumni like McKittrick) tries her best as the villain, but there is no oomph in the character—and I’m the world’s biggest Jena Malone fan. She is far better at playing a villainous role in The Neon Demon. Jack Huston, who is a great actor, has nothing to do as the other main baddie. Gabourey Sidibe plays one of Veronica’s friends, doing the sassy, overweight black girl-pal role that she has made a career out of.
The film also has a ridiculously misguided ending that, coming after a summer of Black Lives Matter protests following the savage killing of George Floyd, just shows the neo-liberal leanings of the filmmakers instead of any desire for real systemic change. Finally, there is a ridiculous scene involving The Normal’s early industrial classic “Warm Leatherette,” as if to indicate that this is the type of music white racists listen to. I guess at least Daniel Miller got a paycheck out of this dumpster fire of a film. I know they will keep doing it, but maybe we should stop selling films on “from the producers of”…?
The disc includes an overly long and self-important making-of documentary, some shorter featurettes and eight minutes of deleted scenes.