Jeymes Samuel’s “The Book of Clarence” is a film that swings for the fences, aiming to be both a thought-provoking exploration of faith and a visually stunning spectacle.
Set in first-century Jerusalem, the movie follows Clarence (LaKeith Stanfield), a hustler with a knack for getting himself into trouble. When he encounters Jesus (Omar Sy), Clarence sees an opportunity to escape his debt and improve his life. However, his plans take an unexpected turn when he becomes caught up in the events leading to Jesus’s crucifixion.
Visually Dazzling, Narratively Uneven
Samuel’s vision for “The Book of Clarence” is undeniably audacious much like his audacious Black western The Harder They Fall. The film boasts stunning production design, with richly detailed sets and costumes that bring ancient Jerusalem to life. The soundtrack, composed by Samuel himself, is a blend of soul, hip-hop, and gospel that adds to the movie’s unique atmosphere.
However, while the film’s visuals are impressive, the narrative isn’t always as sure-footed. The story can feel uneven at times, with some pacing issues and tonal shifts that leave the audience a little confused. Additionally, the film’s exploration of faith can be heavy-handed at times, bordering on preachy.
The Supporting Cast Impresses
Despite its narrative shortcomings, “The Book of Clarence” is anchored by a strong performance from LaKeith Stanfield. Stanfield brings charisma and depth to the role of Clarence, making him a flawed and relatable character. A “badass” Mary Magdalene played impressively by Harlem‘s artist Teyana Taylor is part of a memorable “Ben-Hur,” meets “Fast & Furious,” in a high-speed chariot race through the streets of Jerusalem. And an excellent, with Omar Sy delivering a nuanced performance as Jesus and David Oyelowo bringing gravitas to the role of Pontius Pilate, the beautiful Varinia as Anna Diop, Amina played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Nicholas Pinnock as a disciple of Jesus, Mary by Hollywood veteran Alfre Woodard and many more.
A Film Worth Discussing, Even if it Doesn’t Always Succeed
“The Book of Clarence” is a film that is sure to spark conversation. It’s a bold and ambitious effort that tackles complex themes with a unique stylistic approach. While it may not always succeed in its goals, it’s a film that is worth watching for its visual beauty, strong performances, and thought-provoking questions.
Here are some additional points to consider
The film’s use of anachronistic elements, such as hip-hop music and slang, has been a source of debate among critics. Some viewers appreciate the film’s fresh take on biblical storytelling, while others find it jarring.
“The Book of Clarence” has been praised for its diverse cast and its exploration of themes of race and class in the context of ancient Jerusalem.
The film’s runtime of over two hours may test the patience of some viewers.
Overall, “The Book of Clarence” is a visually stunning and thought-provoking film that is sure to generate discussion. Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that it’s a unique and unforgettable cinematic experience.
I hope this review gives you a good sense of what to expect from “The Book of Clarence.” Whether you decide to see it in theaters or wait for it to come out on streaming, I’m sure you’ll have something to say about it!
The Book of Clarence Official Soundtrack features new music by Jeymes Samuel, JAY-Z, Lil Wayne, Kid Cudi, and more.
The Book of Clarence is amusing, and thought-provoking, and as Peter Chattaway wrote it’s “funny and confusing sincerity”.
As Lovia Gyarkye wrote for The Hollywood Reporter, …it’s disappointing when The Book of Clarence stops short of a full embrace of farce. Hints of self-seriousness present at the beginning of the film intensify. As Clarence starts to believe his own charade, the filmmaker tries to shape lessons out of the madness.
The more impassioned moments land oddly, exacerbating the tonal incoherence, and the performances stiffen as the actors are made to solemnly repeat forcefully weighted phrases like “hold space.” It’s an unnecessary turn for The Book of Clarence, which comes boasting an entertaining premise and confident direction. Sure, it feels good for the trickster to learn a lesson, but it’s funnier and more damning when he doesn’t.
The Book of Clarence
Rated PG-13 for crucifixion, crudeness and ancient weed. Running time: 2 hours 16 minutes. In theaters.
AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9, 2309 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10027, 212.665.6923, www.AMCMagicjohnsonHarlem.com
Photo credit: 1) Source. 2) Sony.
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