The Book of Clarence
The Book of Clarence Movie Review
Listen to the podcast version here or scroll below
I was not ready for The Book of Clarence. I was not sure what to expect because I did not get much from the previews besides Clarence being a fake Jesus. I was compelled to see it because one, of all the beautiful melanin, and two, the cast is absolutely a phenomenal ensemble of actors. I expected it to be a full-on comedy watch. Although it has comedic elements, The Book of Clarence was so much more than that. Christians, reasonable ones anyway, you will not be offended, and atheists, this is probably not your thing.
Not knowing what I was getting into tempered my expectations, which left me open to anything. I expected the acting to be top-notch, and it absolutely was. LaKeith Stanfield was a delight to watch. He stars as the lead, Clarence, who does not believe, for one second, that Jesus is the Messiah. The Book of Clarence is about a regular guy who wants to be more and do more for his family. It is set during the time that Jesus was prophesying. Clarence decides that he can fool people just as well as Jesus can, and with the support of his friends, he does just that. Rounding out the cast are RJ Cyler, David Oyelowo, Teyana Taylor, James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Caleb McLaughlin, Nicholas Pinnock, Ann Diop, Marianne Jean-Baptists, and Alfre Woodard. There is no way I was going to pass up seeing this movie.
Again, the acting was very well executed. This movie had all of my favorite things: satire, sarcasm, realism, comedy, romance, and heart. The pacing and setting were just right. The cinematography was also just right. It was not anything over the top but at the same time was able to provide the essence of the time with a modernized touch which I believe they were going for. The writing and the way they tied everything together, especially the present and the past was very well done. If you cannot tell by now, I enjoyed this film.
I did have to shift my mindset a bit to think about how things may have been during that period. Crucifixion was not an uncommon thing. They were as common as the various means of the death penalty today. Then I had to think, that many people did not believe in this person walking around talking about he’s the Messiah back then. It would not be far-fetched for people back then to think Jesus was a fake and have copycats. I imagine many men did get rounded up and killed because they appeared or thought they might be the Messiah. Also, it is a story, not a historical look at what happened. There is no real book of Clarence but it was so much fun to watch.
Last year, I did not write as many movie reviews as I normally do, but out of the ones that I wrote and even the ones that I saw but did not write about, I only have two 10/10 reviews. Although I can be lenient with my ratings, I have only given two 10/10 reviews over the last three years from 18 written reviews. The Book of Clarence is my first 10/10 for 2024. We are kicking the year off strong.
The Book of Clarence 10/10
If you are stopping before the spoilers, I only scratch the surface and will probably say so much more on the podcast.
Clarence and Varinia- here is the thing I found interesting about him, and particularly his relationship with Varinia. She knew he was great. She knew he was more than he believed himself to be but because he did not believe that in himself and therefore did not yet accomplish anything that demonstrated that they were at an impasse as far as a relationship was concerned. Varinia cared for him but also already knew that he lacked self-confidence. It is interesting when she went to his mother to discuss this, she basically told Varinia that you have to accept him as he is. In this instance, his mother was fine with him as he was which is wonderful but sometimes someone else will see and know you are capable of more. Moms are wonderful but they do not have the same expectations from their sons as a potential life mate would.
Clarence was plagued with people who did not expect more from him but he was drawn to Varinia who was not going to be the one to accept him at he was. He refused to quit because of it even with others and his brother whom he loved consistently telling him that he would amount to nothing.
Book I was basically the world laughing at him and telling him that he ain’t shit.
I loved how the movie started. It was exciting and a really good introduction to the pivotal characters. Clarence, Elijah, and Mary Magdalene in a chariot race. This is important because Clarence losing this race is the domino to everything else happening. Because he loses the race he is unable to pay Jedediah the Terrible back money that he borrowed. To make matters worse, Jedediah is Varinia’s older brother. When Jedediah finds out he cannot pay, he gives him 30 days to get his money or Clarence is dead.
Clarence is also dealing with the fact that his brother, Thomas, has left him as his mother to be one of Jesus’s twelve apostles. Thomas seems to hate his brother and demeans him every chance he gets. Clarence visits John the Baptist to be baptized, thinking that will somehow help him with Jedediah. He is so desperate that he even humbles himself and asks the group of apostles to be the 13th one. This of course is a huge issue because Clarence is a nonbeliever. He is also a weed dealer and they look upon him with disdain. Judas challenges Clarence by telling him to go and free the gladiator slaves then he can become the 13th apostle.
Clarence goes to Asher the Torturer to “ask” for the gladiators to be released. It does not go over well but Asher strikes a deal that if he bests his greatest gladiator he will set him free. Clarence fights Barabbas and wins. He is surprisingly skilled and bests him. Asher reluctantly frees him and Barabba essentially pledges his loyalty to Clarence. They all return to the apostles and they again laugh him out of there. It is after this, Clarence hatches the plan to become a fake Messiah which ultimately lands him on the cross. This is in Book III when things get really serious and heart wrenching but it’s so good. Ultimately, he does die but Jesus revives him. He gets another bright idea at the end, and the audience is left to guess what possible shenanigans he will get himself into. Although, he is a changed man and a believer towards the end.
There is so much more I can say and will say on the podcast but just know that myself and my daughter thoroughly enjoyed this movie.
Listen to the podcast version below