Netflix drops 1st trailer for ‘Monster’ with Jennifer Hudson, Jeffery Wright

    The drama feature is based on Walter Dean Myers’ 1999 young adult novel of the same name

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    Netflix has dropped the first trailer for the legal drama Monster featuring Kelvin Harrison, Jr., as Steve Harmon, an honor student whose world comes crashing down around him when he is charged with felony murder. 

    Directed by Anthony Mandler, Monster, per press release, follows the teenager’s dramatic journey from a smart, likable film student from Harlem attending an elite high school through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison. 

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    The book’s synopsis adds: “Guilty or innocent, Steve becomes a pawn in the hands of ‘the system,’ cluttered with cynical authority figures and unscrupulous inmates, who will turn in anyone to shorten their own sentences. For the first time, Steve is forced to think about who he is as he faces prison, where he may spend all the tomorrows of his life.”

    In addition to Harris, the film also stars Jennifer Hudson as Steve’s mother and Jeffrey Wright as his father, with Jharrel Jerome, Jennifer Ehle, Rakim Mayers, Nasir ‘Nas’ Jones, Tim Blake Nelson and John David Washington. Peep the trailer above.

    Monster is based on Walter Dean Myers’ 1999 young adult novel of the same name, and is executive produced by Wright, Jones, and John Legend. The novel was a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, as well as a nominee for the Coretta Scott King Award for Authors. Myers explained in a 2014 interview with Pen America that while researching Monster he received valuable insight from a defense attorney that “rang so true that I keep it in mind all the time as I write,” he told the outlet.

    “He said that his major job was not to present evidence or alibis, but to “humanize” his client, to present him or her as a human being as the prosecutor presented them as “other.” And the first way to “humanize” young people is to include their lives, families, and problems in books,” Myers continued. 

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    “As a youngster growing up in Harlem in a foster home, I never found myself, my family, my church, or even my diet in the books I loved. As a consequence (in retrospect, I wasn’t aware of what was going on at the time) I did not love myself as a Black person or have a particular respect for much of the Black community,”  he added. “I found myself uncomfortable with being identified as Black, and this subtle shame forms, I believe, an “angst burden” that many children of color (and gay kids, and obese kids, whatever) carry constantly.”

    Meanwhile, Monster premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Steven Prokopy, reviewing for slashfilm.com, wrote: “The film adaptation from music video veteran and first-time filmmaker Anthony Madler is an ambitious, complex, and layered look at how the court system in America is virtually designed to keep defendants like Steve from every getting a chance at actual justice.”

    He added, “This isn’t a film in search of a happy ending; at best, the story hopes that those hurt by these events can salvage relationships and faith in themselves after systematically being torn apart at every step of this process. It sounds gloomy and somber, it’s true, but the emotionally rousing Monster does find threads of hope amid the despair. These days, that’s often more than we’re used to.”

    Monster is slated for May 7, 2021 release on Netflix.

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