- Movie Rating -

Master (2022)

| March 18, 2022

I hate this.  I hate this kind of movie.  I hate a movie with an inch-thick current topic that then throws it out the window on genre nonsense.  Here is the story of two women of color, wading in a world of wealthy whites and how they are treated within a peer group that traditionally takes strides to avoid people of their race and class distinction.  So why then why does director Mariama Diallo have to go and muck it up with a confusing, unfocused supernatural horror plot?

Before I dive into the question, let me see if I can elaborate on the messiness of her narrative.  Regina Hall plays Gail Bishop who has just been elevated to the role of Master at New England’s Ancaster School in New England, the first African-American to do so (though no one points out the vibrations that come off of the word “master”).  Ancaster, we learn, was her alma mater and now she is tenured.  Parallel to Gail is the story of Jasmine (Zoe Renee) a freshman who wades into a student body that is 99% over-privileged whites.  Naturally, they treat her different and since our perspective is her perspective, we hear things as she hears them, words and phrases sound different.  Her classmates think they are being inclusive by saying that she bears a resemblance to Beyonce (she doesn’t) and belting out rap lyrics peppered with the N-word (they shouldn’t).

That’s the interesting part.  What is not so interesting is the other part.  On the first day, Jasmine is given a dorm room where a gruesome death occurred centuries ago and the room is haunted by a ghost who at around 3:33 in the morning on December 3rd murders the person who occupies it.  It has to do with some witch burning involving Margaret Millet back in the bad old days of Salem.

Why?  Why did we need this ghost story?  In our evolving culture that is struggling to communicate the uniqueness of the African-American perspective (i.e. how differently whites and blacks hear words and phrases) this is potent and even crucial to our understanding of one another.  Diallo had it in her hands to create something real, something with a potent message.  Why confuse the issues with visions maggots and bloody skeletons?

Outisde of that nonsense, there’s a story that really captured my interest.  Gail’s fellow teacher Liv (Amber Gray) is up for tenure, but there’s a problem that threatens her promotion when Jasmine files a motion against her for giving her an F on an essay in which she challenged the idea that Hester in “The Scarlett Letter” could have been a black woman, failing it because she couldn’t give it a reason.  Meanwhile a fellow student did the bare minimum and walked away with a B+.  Gail finds herself in the crosshairs because she is pinned down during the evaluation because of the color of her skin and the administration wants her perspective.

See!  That’s good stuff.  That’s a story that you could sink your teeth into.  The problem is that the movie is so distracted that it can’t build Jasmine or Gail as characters because we keep switching to the horror show.  I walked away from this movie frustrated, wanting this director to clean up the clutter, build up the characters and throw away all that witch nonsense.  That’s a great movie in here.  I just wish that Diallo had made it.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Horror