Harriet (film)

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Harriet
HarrietFilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKasi Lemmons
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Gregory Allen Howard
  • Kasi Lemmons
Story byGregory Allen Howard
Starring
Music byTerence Blanchard
CinematographyJohn Toll
Edited byWyatt Smith
Production
companies
Distributed byFocus Features
Release date
  • September 10, 2019 (2019-09-10) (TIFF)
  • November 1, 2019 (2019-11-01) (United States)
Running time
125 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$17 million[2]
Box office$32.1 million[3]

Harriet is a 2019 American biographical film about slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Directed by Kasi Lemmons, who wrote the screenplay with Gregory Allen Howard, it stars Cynthia Erivo as Tubman, with Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, and Janelle Monáe in supporting roles.

A biography about Harriet Tubman had been in the works for years, with several actresses, including Viola Davis, rumored to star. Erivo was cast in February 2017, much of the cast and crew joined the following year. Filming then took place in Virginia from October to December 2018.

Harriet had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2019, and was released theatrically in the United States on November 1, 2019, by Focus Features. It received generally favorable reviews from critics, who praised Erivo's performance and found the film sincere but formulaic.

Premise[edit]

It is based on the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery and led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Focus Features' website highlights the movie by saying, "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."[4]

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

In 2015, Viola Davis was set to star in and produce a Harriet Tubman biopic; however, it never came to fruition.[5] Development on a new film began in May 2016.[6] In February 2017, Cynthia Erivo was cast as Tubman, with Seith Mann directing from a screenplay by Gregory Allen Howard.[7]

Further development on the film was announced in September 2018, with Focus Features set as the new distributor, Kasi Lemmons attached as director, and Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Jennifer Nettles, and Clarke Peters, and others, were added to the cast.[8][9] In October, Janelle Monáe was announced among several new castings for the film, with filming due to begin on October 8, 2018 in Virginia, lasting through December.[10][11][12]

Harriet was filmed entirely in Virginia in 2018, spending time in Richmond, Powhatan, Cumberland, Petersburg, Mathews, and several other localities.[citation needed]

Release[edit]

It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2019.[13] It was released in the United States on November 1, 2019.[3]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

In the United States and Canada, Harriet was released alongside Terminator: Dark Fate, Arctic Dogs and Motherless Brooklyn, and was projected to gross $7.5–9 million from 2,059 theaters in its opening weekend.[14][15] The film made $3.9 million on its first day, including $600,000 from Thursday night previews. It went on to slightly over-perform, debuting to $11.7 million and finishing fourth.[16][2] The film made $7.2 million in its second weekend, finishing seventh.[17] As of November 10, 2019, the film has made $23.5 million at the domestic box office.[3]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 73% based on 164 reviews, with an average rating of 6.53/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Harriet serves as a sincere tribute to a pivotal figure in American history — albeit one undermined by its frustratingly formulaic approach."[18] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 66 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[19] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare grade of "A+", while those at PostTrak gave it an average 4.5 out of 5 stars and a 69% "definite recommend".[16]

Reviewing for Observer in November 2019, Rex Reed wrote: "With enough terror to satisfy modern audiences and enough underplayed plot movement to save it from conventional biopic trajectory, Harriet holds interest and invites respect. It is still not the great Civil War epic it could have been, but it’s solid enough to work, and Cynthia Erivo's valiant and committed performance is a wonderful achievement."[20] Richard Roeper gave the film three out of four stars in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, applauding Erivo's "convincing" and "powerful" acting as well as Lemmons' approach to the story: "The crackling historical fiction frames [Tubman's] harrowing rescue missions in fast-paced, quick-cut style."[21]

Some reviewers were less impressed. Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave the film a "B–", writing that "Harriet doesn’t attempt to reinvent the biopic, relying instead on a poignant turn by rising screen talent Cynthia Erivo 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."[22] In Variety, Owen Gleiberman wrote: "Cynthia Erivo plays the escaped slave Harriet Tubman with a mournful fury, but the rest of Kasi Lemmons' biopic is more dutiful than inspired."[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Harriet". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Rubin, Rebecca (November 3, 2019). "Box Office: 'Terminator: Dark Fate' Fizzles With $29 Million Debut". Variety. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Harriet (2019)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  4. ^ "Harriet". Focus Features. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  5. ^ Erbland, Kate (September 18, 2018). "Cynthia Erivo Responds to Harriet Tubman Casting Backlash: 'I Cannot Tell How Protective I Am of This Woman'". IndieWire. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  6. ^ Busch, Anita (May 2, 2016). "Harriet Tubman Feature Film In Works From Macro And New Balloon". Deadline Hollywood.
  7. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (February 8, 2017). "Cynthia Erivo To Star As Harriet Tubman In Upcoming 'Harriet' Biopic". Deadline.
  8. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 13, 2018). "Focus Features Moving Forward With Harriet Tubman Pic Starring Cynthia Erivo". Deadline. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  9. ^ N'Duka, Amanda; Wiseman, Andreas (September 21, 2018). "Focus Features' 'Harriet' Biopic Adds Vanessa Bell Calloway, 'Seven Seconds' Actor Zackary Momoh & More". Deadline. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  10. ^ Galuppo, Mia (October 2, 2018). "Janelle Monae Joins Cynthia Erivo in Harriet Tubman Biopic". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 11, 2019.
  11. ^ Curran, Colleen (October 3, 2018). "'Harriet' feature film biopic to start filming in Petersburg, Virginia next week". The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  12. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (October 4, 2018). "'Harriet' Adds 'Queen Sugar's Omar J. Dorsey, 'Colony's Tory Kittles & More". Deadline.
  13. ^ Lang, Brent (July 23, 2019). "Toronto Film Festival: 'Joker,' 'Ford v Ferrari,' 'Hustlers' Among Big Premieres". Variety. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  14. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (October 29, 2019). "Box Office: 'Terminator: Dark Fate' to Take Down 'Harriet,' 'Motherless Brooklyn'". Variety. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  15. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony; Tartaglione, Nancy (October 30, 2019). "'Terminator: Dark Fate' Eyes $125M Global Weekend, But Will Franchise "Be Back" Stateside?". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  16. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 3, 2019). "How 'Terminator: Dark Fate' Conked Out With $27M+ & Why 'The Irishman' Is Not A Missed Strategic Opportunity – Box Office". Deadline. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  17. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (November 10, 2019). "How 'Doctor Sleep' Went Into A Coma At The B.O. With Dreary $14M+ Opening, Following Surprise $17M+ Attack By 'Midway' – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  18. ^ "Harriet (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  19. ^ "Harriet (2019)". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  20. ^ Reed, Rex (November 1, 2019). "With 'Harriet,' Cynthia Erivo Takes a Giant Leap Towards Stardom". Observer. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  21. ^ Roeper, Richard (October 30, 2019). "'Harriet': Cynthia Erivo convincingly plays the freedom fighter as both rebellious slave and action hero". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  22. ^ Eric Kohn (September 11, 2019). "'Ford v Ferrari' Review: Matt Damon and Christian Bale Power Old-School Race Car Drama". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  23. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (September 11, 2019). "Toronto Film Review: 'Harriet'". Variety. Retrieved September 11, 2019.

External links[edit]