Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of HARRIET Starring Cynthia Erivo?
Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, HARRIET tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery and transformation into one of America's greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history. HARRIET stars Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., and Janelle Monae.
Harriet premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on September 10, 2019. The film will be released in theaters on November 1.
Find out what the critics thought of Harriet below, and make sure to check back as more reviews come in!
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:
British actress Erivo, who won a Tony Award for her Broadway debut in The Color Purple, hits all the requisite notes of flintiness and selfless bravery born of suffering, determination and rage. But the movie bathes Harriet in the hallowed light of nobility without providing much access to what she's thinking and feeling; its heavy bias toward action scenes leaves too little room for character study. Tubman is an extraordinary figure with a unique place in American history, but although Lemmons' film is an admirable bid to do this giant of the anti-slavery movement justice, it's a monument to her heroism rather than a full-blooded incarnation.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety:
"Harriet" ultimately evolves into a kind of righteous Western action movie, built around the logistics of how to escape a posse of slave hunters. Harriet gets to get good with her gun, and that's fair enough, since she wound up being one of the only women in the Civil War to lead a military patrol. It's one more thing about her to be in awe of, and "Harriet" is nothing if not a dutiful and eye-opening salute. But it still leaves you feeling that the great movie about Harriet Tubman has yet to be made.
Eric Kohn, IndieWire:
"Harriet" doesn't attempt to reinvent the biopic, relying instead on a poignant turn by rising screen talent Cynthia Erivo ("Widows") as its soulful centerpiece, against the gorgeous backdrop of John Toll's cinematography and Terence Blanchard's euphoric score. As a sentimental tribute, it hardly transcends expectations - but Erivo's performance injects a palpable urgency to the material that makes up for missed time.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian:
This film may not reach the height of inspiration in every frame, but it could be that Lemmons is not interested in fetishising and aestheticising every dire circumstance, wishing instead to drive forward the story in an approachable, conventional way. She certainly offers a springboard for a tremendously charismatic and muscular performance from Erivo, who may well be in the frame for awards. Hollywood is still notably reticent about the slavery era, despite the success of Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, and Lemmons' achievement is to tell a story that does not accept slavery as a tragic and immutable fact, and to dramatise the people who took action against it.