Opening July 9, 2020
Directed by: Kasi Lemmons
Writing credits: Gregory Allen Howard, Kasi Lemmons
Principal actors: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Janelle MonáeEnglish
The incredible story of Harriet Tubman, the former slave from Maryland turned abolitionist, was just waiting to be told on the big screen.
Unfortunately, what could have been an unforgettable film ends up falling flat. Although co-writer and director Kasi Lemmons does her best to capture Tubman’s tenacity and resilience in the face of slavery, her long-awaited biopic, Harriet, feels more Lifetime-worthy than Oscar®-worthy.
Don’t get me wrong. The solid performance by English actress and Tony award-winning Cynthia Erivo carries the 125-minute film with quiet strength. (It’s no surprise she was nominated for both a Golden Globe® and Oscar®.) Erivo’s acting chops, however, are overshadowed by a storyline that focuses more on Tubman’s supposed “other-worldly” premonitions that repeatedly save the day rather than her extraordinary feat of bringing nearly 300 slaves to freedom. Not to mention she also served as a Union spy during the American Civil War.
While Terence Blanchard's musical score borders on the saccharine, the supporting cast feels entirely one-dimensional (most notably Harriet’s coldhearted slave owner, played by the boyish Joe Alwyn). Teeming with good intentions, Harriet does illuminate Tubman’s harrowing and inspiring journey but ultimately fails to leave any sort of lasting impression. (Erin H.)