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Antebellum (2020)

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I have to admit, I thought this movie was very disappointing. 

I went into this not having seen anything but the trailer. I really like Octavia Butler's Kindred, so that's what made me eager to see Antebellum. 

I'm not even sure where to start with my criticism and don't want to be too spoilery for people who haven't seen it.

This movie doesn't take a deep dive into the subject matter. It's surprisingly shallow and I think the running time reflects this. It's like the filmmakers thought that if they used the right buzzwords and symbols that this would be the equivalent of generating thoughtful dialogue. 

With regard to the twist 

 

was this really supposed to take people by surprise? The trailer makes it plain that the story will have a current setting at some point and I think it took me all of ten to fifteen minutes to know that the plantation scenes were set in present day based purely on the dialogue. At best this was an underwhelming episode of Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone reboot.

In terms of the layout of the story

 

I think it was a mistake for the movie to open on the plantation. To me we should have opened with Janelle's character's interview on the show. See the follow up conversations with her husband and daughter and take in her comfortable life so that when she is kidnapped, the contrast feels even more sharp and brutal. I also think it woud have been better if we'd been given a little more backstory on the other people who were kidnapped. eg I would have liked to see how the professor was kidnapped and had a little sense of what his life was like before. Chances are he was teaching something that triggered the slaver assholes and that's what put him on their radar. I think it would have been interesting to see how the slavers chose their targets because you get the impression that they were going after anyone who was trying to make a positive difference.

Regarding the stretched out

 

restaurant scene I definitely understand wanting to comment on the potential hazard of dining while black. The moment where the trio are taken to a two top table and demand to have something bigger was well done. Also well done was the moment the server suggested prosecco when they specifically asked for champagne. They could have ended it there but then the scene drags on so that we can watch Gabourey's character critique the game of a guy who sent her cocktail. I woud rather have spent time getting backstory on other characters (including the villains) instead of all the time we spent on the scenes at the hotel.

Overall, I feel like this movie didn't spend its time on the right things. Some scenes drag out for no apparent reason and other scenes only scratch the surface of what could be genuinely compelling. 

Edited by Avaleigh
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I just watched this and I’m not sure I understood the sequence of events. Was Janelle’s character actually dreaming the slavery events and then she was kidnapped? Or was it a premonition? Or did she get kidnapped and then the opening scenes were her dreaming of what happened to her? It was pretty confusing. I think the themes about Black women were well presented, but I think the plot didn’t quite follow through well. It went from micro aggressions to outright mustache twirling villainy

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I just watched this and I’m not sure I understood the sequence of events. Was Janelle’s character actually dreaming the slavery events and then she was kidnapped? Or was it a premonition? Or did she get kidnapped and then the opening scenes were her dreaming of what happened to her? It was pretty confusing.


The first act was told in a non-linear fashion. All of the events on the plantation occurred in present day. Then when they show her in bed with the slave owner, it jumps to a time before where the audience realizes that this is contemporary. She was a present day woman who was kidnapped by people who decided they were going to relive the era of antebellum. Then it goes back to the present day of her living on the plantation and planning the revolt.

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I remember watching this when it first came on Hulu and, holy hell, just thinking about it now is still so disturbing and upsetting to me.  Although I suppose that was the point -- slaves in the antebellum period were also stolen from their lives and tortured.  

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