“Harriet” Movie A Let-Down to the Story of Harriet Tubman

By Alli Lipsit, Staff Writer

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Harriet Tubman was a prominent character of not only her day and age but the one that we live in today as well. She was an advocate for the black rights movement prior to the civil war, and an effective one too. Not only did Tubman create a system and route of freedom for enslaved blacks making her a critical role model, hero, and person overall, but she was a black woman, making her important to the community of women as well as the community of blacks.

It is for this reason that I am disappointed with the movie Harriet and what it had to offer in terms of respect towards such an important historical figure. The movie Harriet was released on Nov. 1 in theaters everywhere. 

When two of my friends saw the movie the night prior to me and said the acting was bad I thought nothing of it. Bad acting has never ruined a movie for me before, and I wouldn’t say it’s the only thing that ruined Harriet, but it definitely played a factor.

To start, Joe Alwyn who played Gideon Broddess, the son of Harriet’s slave owner. Under the event his father dies, (which he eventually does, but his mother still technically owns the slaves as well), the future slave owner of all the slaves on the plantation. His acting was disappointing and by far the worst of all the actors. Every time he spoke it sounded like he was a ninth-grader cast as the lead role in his play…because no one else auditioned.

There was one scene after Broddess’s father’s death, where he pretty much threatens Harriet. His father’s sudden death leaves most of the “slave control” to him. Although not specifically said in the movie, subtle hints are given that Broddess may have developed feelings for Tubman, but obviously, as Tubman is happily married, these feelings are not reciprocated. For this reason, Broddess plans to sell Tubman to separate her from her loved ones.

This scene should’ve been a serious representation of how real and abrupt random slave selling was in order to purposefully separate families, but because Alwyn sounded like he was trying way too hard to fit the role, I found myself chuckling at the bad acting.

Alwyn was not the only actor in the movie that failed to impress me. I had a similar, though not as harsh opinion of Clark Peters, the actor who played Harriet’s father. Whenever there was a scene with him it was always so dramatic, sentimental, and intense.

This isn’t a bad thing at all under most circumstances, but I felt as though they had too many of these scenes with him, giving him an inaccurate personality that looked like it was created just for Hollywood, and it was yet again, way too obvious that he was trying very hard to fulfill his character’s role. I noticed this tendency especially in one of the last scenes, where Harriet comes back for her father to save him after her escape, but he couldn’t yet escape with her.

Peters was too dramatic, and I know it sounds dumb since it’s obviously a dramatic scene, but it wasn’t a good type of dramatic, it was fake dramatic. It seemed like Hollywood had molded the scene itself to catch a rise out of people, and Peters was just following along.

Lastly, I think that Leslie Odom Jr’s character William Still didn’t receive nearly enough attention. Although he was in the movie often, it didn’t really seem like he was an important character. He was kind of just there, giving Harriet hugs and clapping his hands every time she came back with more slaves, then writing down their names in his journal. That’s pretty much about all the information the movie gave on him, so I really don’t think audience members got to know enough about him. To be honest, I had to look up his character’s name because I couldn’t even remember it. This is a problem since Still played such a major role in helping Tubman free so many slaves.

Overall, I find it a shame that the movie didn’t have better actors and didn’t have a better script since it’s such a heavy topic in history, and although it was emotional and intense, sometimes too intense, this doesn’t change the bad Hollywood features of the movie. Because of this, I would give Harriet a rate of five out of ten and I wouldn’t waste your money to go and see this movie.