12 Years a Slave: A review in texts

I recently saw the award-nominated, award-winning, Steve McQueen directed tale of hope in the face of hopeless adversity: 12 Years a Slave.

Below is a transcript of text messages sent between myself and a friend of mine, spanning his viewing of the film and mine. I thought it kind of made for an interesting ‘review’.

Warning: Contains spoilers (sort of)

Warning: Approach with a sense of irony.

-Unseen Flirtations

* * *

I seen 12 Years a Slave this arvo. Have you seen?

Nope…

 

Dang. I’ve got a very clever observation that you would find amusing because you’re au fait with film crit. It’s a spoiler though. See it so I can make my smartarse joke.

Ok! I’ll see it this weekend I think. Hang on to the gag!

 

Prepare to be extraordinarily underwhelmed. At my joke, that is. The film might even be worth watching beyond its role as wit-fodder…

Finally saw 12 years. What was your joke?? Ps: Monday evening? I can come round yours or we can meet somewhere…

 

Yeah, sure thing. Come on over. I’ll be home from 5pm, I start work early these days. Ok, 12 years ‘joke’: Brad Pitt is the magical negro!

He is! Probably executive produced it that way, what with his UN family and all…

 

What did you make of 12 Years overall?

VERY melodramatic. But completely unwavering in its telling of the story. Great cast, maybe bar Pitt 🙂  Def more Hollywood than Hunger.

 

I couldn’t get past the Hollywood sheen. Hans Zimmer’s score was almost identical to his Inception one. It bugged me throughout the film. The stream of big names were distracting: Benedict Cumberbatch, Garrett Dillahunt, Paul Giammati, Brad Pittt -they didn’t have enough screen time to establish meaningful characters so didn’t get past cameo status, which is a big problem when you’re trying to immerse an audience into the brutality of historically accurate slavery.

True. It wasn’t until Fassbender kicked in that I settled into the narrative. Some heavy handed big studio decisions at play fir sure. Thank god Northup wasn’t played by Will Smith or Tom Hanks or something!

On reflection, I appreciated the lesser known actors, maybe for the reasons you outlined…

Yeah, Fassbender’s whipping girl was great. So great that I was half expecting her to turn around and freak out at the lights and cameras. I should really learn her name. And how to pronounce and spell Cheeter Igerfor’s. I also want to read the script. At least seven scenes must read like: EXT. PLANTATION -DAY, We linger on SOLOMON NORTHUP’S eyes. <end scene>.

Chee woe tell, Ij ee four, right? Can I blog this conversation? I’ll keep you anonymous…

 

You can’t use ‘ij’ in a phonetic breakdown! Are you going to blog this bit? Hello Internet! Remember to use the comments to remind OP what he is 😉 Two more things. One, I forgot Michael K Williams off the good actor cameo list, and I’ve probably forgot others too. And two, despite its flaws TYAS does give valuable insight into what the daily life of USA slave life might have been like. And it’s not a stretch to say it provides some context for understanding current US race relations. There, a bit of balance, because all things considered it’s not a bad film at all.

What a considered write up. OP??

 

Original Poster

Ah, of course. Right then, I’m gonna blog this. Any last requests?

* * *

 

And…. that was the whole conversation.

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