A major disappointment at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was without a doubt “Native Son.” From first-time director Rashid Johnson, and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Suzan-Lori Park, this A24 and HBO production is based on the acclaimed Richard Wright novel of the same name. Centering on Bigger Thomas (Ashton Sanders, a tad too-much underacting on his part), a young Black man hampered by the Chicago poverty surrounding him, who lands an ideal job as the chauffeur for wealthy businessman Will Dalton (Bill Camp) and his daughter Mary (the as-always-excellent Margaret Qualley). However, things don’t go smoothly as planned, the businessman’s daughter is nothing but a nice-girl, she loves to rebel against her own white-privileged background, trying to seduce Bigger, which leads to an implausible and un-realistic series of events (which I will not reveal due to the twisty nature of the affair). Suffice to say, despite the promising start, I didn’t believe a second of Native Son’s second half. That’s really too bad because director Johnson’s gutsy and provocative approach with the source material just doesn’t seem to mesh with Wright’s original vision.
“Native Son” premieres on HBO This Saturday, April 6th.