Harriet, Focus Feature’s film chronicling the thrilling and inspirational life of iconic American freedom fighter, Harriet Tubman, made a $12 million debut at the box office over the weekend.

The film starring Tony Award-winning Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr.Janelle Monáe, and Joe Alwyn, opened in 2,059 theaters and scooped the no. 4 spot at the box office behind Terminator, Joker, and Maleficent.

Read our review of Harriet below, written by our resident movie guru, B. Gunn.

'Harriet' Review

‘Harriet’ Review By B. Gunn

When you hear the term “Black Girl Magic”, many meanings may come to mind. It can mean the way they continue to defy Father Time with eternally youthful looks that make vampires envious. It can mean the way they work a 9-to-5, raise children, cook meals – with or without help – and still stand tall while society at large continues to conspire against them with unequal pay, objectification, and disrespect. It could mean the enchanted womb they have that gave birth to all humanity. This isn’t anything new. They’ve been doing it since the beginning of time. There’s even one who made slaves disappear from their masters. She is the great magician known as Harriet Tubman.

In the new movie “Harriet”, Cynthia Erivo creates illusions that leave entire regions speechless. When she doesn’t reveal her secrets, she becomes the most wanted black girl in the south. 

“Harriet” stars Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, and Janelle Monae in the biopic of Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who returned to lead hundreds of other slaves to freedom on the underground railroad. Given the magnitude of her contribution to America, I’m surprised at why it took this long to make a film about her, but better late than never! The film focuses on Tubman as an adult and her dedication to helping slaves run to the north. Ervio is magnificent as Tubman. We as an audience and people in general don’t have much source material to go on other than books, old photos, and historians’ accounts of her personality and mannerisms. Ervio takes all that information and transforms herself into what has to be the most truthful portrayal that you’ll see. She embodies a tired slave woman fed up with her mistreatment and her life of bondage. She finds the courage to escape the hellish conditions and discover freedom. But rather than stay safe and be comfortable with her newfound lifestyle, she decides to go back and risk her life to free others. Odom Jr’s character William Still can be considered as the plug. He shows us another side of black socialism, one that isn’t talked about very much when it comes to that period in time. Although both North and South experience racism, this movie captures the distinction rather well. The contrast is captivating.

The entire cast does a fantastic job. “Harriet” takes you back to a horrific time and makes you feel for these characters. The wardrobe, set design, and locations look 100% authentic.

Now, some of us absolutely abhor this time and won’t watch a “slave movie” no matter who’s in it. Director Kasi Lemmons understands this. She focuses more on Tubman’s crusade and less on the conditions of slavery.

Whereas a movie like “12 Years a Slave” forced us to deal with the inhumane, sadistic and graphic treatment of slaves, Lemmons leaves some scenes up to our imagination. As wonderful as “Harriet” is, it has a couple of missteps. One is its antagonist played by Alwyn. By him being the villain, it makes the movie seem like a regular albeit good drama more than a biopic.

An antagonist doesn’t have to be an actual person. It could be a true noun: A person, place or thing. I think this antagonist should have been the conditions, her journey, or the people trying to thwart her mission. Also, you’re going to question the accuracy of this movie. There are some scenes which are very…Hollywood. That may take away from her real-life heroics and skew history.

I suggest you read up on Harriet Tubman before or after watching this film. However, this doesn’t hamper the movie and you won’t leave disappointed. You’ll come away with a sense of inspiration and extreme motivation. This little, 5-foot woman achieved greatness we can only dream of, but we can achieve greatness.

“Harriet” is indeed a must-see movie for everyone, and I’m co-signing it to the fullest! Create some magic for this film and make it levitate to box-office greatness. 

Did you see the film? If not, do you plan to see it?

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