Centering around the topic of racism, ‘A Lot of Nothing’ is a comedy thriller film directed by Mo McRae. The satire features Cleopatra Coleman and Y’lan Noel in lead roles alongside Justin Hartley. An affluent African-American couple, James and Vanessa, watch their next-door neighbor, Brian Stanley, a cop, kill a kid on the news. However, when Vanessa tries to seek justice, she threatens to bring their perfect realities crumbling down by holding Brian hostage at gunpoint.
The film possesses humor that is almost absurd at times. The same, paired with the intense premise, results in a storyline that bubbles with tension until the end. Towards the end of the film, the narrative flips on its axis to try and throw the audience in for a loop. Therefore, here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘A Lot of Nothing.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!
A Lot of Nothing Plot Synopsis
Late one night, James and Vanessa Franklin come across a news channel covering the death of a young unarmed kid at the hands of a police officer. Once the officer’s identity is revealed, Vanessa realizes it’s their neighbor, Brian Stanley. Though frustrated about the news, Vanessa is unsurprised, recalling instances of Brian being passively racist toward her. However, her husband, James, hesitates to jump to conclusions. After a heated argument, the couple agrees that they must take a stand against the perpetrators of systemic racism; in the form of a social media post.
However, the couple only gets caught up in arbitrary details of their anti-racism political post before deciding to take a more personal approach. Egged on by Vanessa, James prepares to confront Brian in person with his gun. Eventually, the entire idea fizzles entirely out once James and Vanessa get carried away and sleep together. The next day, the Franklins leave for their jobs, where each faces passive racism from their colleagues. Once off work, Vanessa goes on a grocery run for dinner with James’ brother Jamal and his pregnant fiancee.
While unloading her groceries, Vanessa notices Brian in his front yard and decides to confront him. As expected, the confrontation doesn’t end well, with Brian disrespecting Vanessa. Afterward, James goes over to Brian’s house to try and talk things over with him, but Brian is immediately rude to James. Things escalate until Vanessa shows up with a gun. She holds Brian at gunpoint when she sees him reach into his back pocket and brings him back to her house.
Although Brian is vehemently baffled by the turn of events, he follows his wife’s lead and helps her tie Brian up to a lawn chair in his home office. Meanwhile, the evening nears, and soon Jamal and Candy arrive for dinner. The Franklins tape Brian’s mouth shut and leave him locked inside the office to receive their dinner guests. Nevertheless, the tension in the house becomes clear, rousing suspicion from Jamal and Candy. As such, James tries to get rid of his brother by having Vanessa fake a work emergency call from the other room. However, during the call, James accidentally puts his phone on speaker, upsetting Jamal and Candy, who recognizes Vanessa’s voice.
As damage control, Vanessa fakes an emotional outburst, claiming she has been unsuccessful at conceiving a baby and can’t handle an evening with Candy. Later, James and Vanessa retreat to the office, where James gets overpowered by Brian, who makes a run for it. Still, Jamal prevents Brian from leaving. Moreover, once Jamal recognizes Brian as the cop from the news, he attacks him, knocking him out. Once the group has restrained Brian to the lawn chair again, Jamal announces the only way out of this mess is to kill Brian.
Do James And Vanessa Kill Brian?
Jamal has an inherent distrust for the police, which stems from personal experiences. Additionally, he believes that Brian’s actions were racially motivated when he killed a kid. As a result, he wants to kill Brian. On the other hand, spiritually intuned Candy is vehemently against the idea. Brian tries to give Jamal, Candy, and James an out by telling them he is willing to overlook their participation in this escapade. Since Vanessa started this whole thing, Brian blames her for it.
Nevertheless, the group insists on holding Brian hostage. James tries to look for a solution and asks Brian why he killed the kid in the first place. Brian tells him he was on duty and responded to a call and that he never saw the face of the kid. Before Brian can finish recounting the event, he experiences a small seizure and tells James he has epilepsy. Since Brian would die without his meds, James and Jamal go to his house to retrieve his life-saving medication.
At the house, Jamal notices a picture of Brian with his white wife and daughter. As such, he realizes Brian had lied about his ex-wife’s race when he compared Vanessa to her earlier. Meanwhile, James finds several notice letters about overdue bills addressed to Brian. Once James and Jamal return to the house, James decides to make a deal with Brian. James is a wealthy lawyer with a luxurious lifestyle, while Brian is drowning in debt and alimony payments. Compared to Brian’s low yearly salary as a cop, James is much more financially well-off than Brian.
Therefore, he offers to pay Brian fifty thousand dollars every year for three years in exchange for Brian keeping quiet about this incident. Brian agrees, but before James frees Brian, Jamal learns something jarring about Brian from the news. The child Brian killed was a white kid. From the movie’s start, every character assumes Brian killed a Black kid as a hate crime. Meanwhile, Brian never corrects anyone’s assumption since he doesn’t believe it makes a difference.
Eventually, Jamal has to leave after Candy’s water abruptly breaks. In the end, James confronts Brian on his own, with their deal still intact. During a conversation with Brian, James discovers that Brian dislikes him and his wife due to their wealth. James retrieves a pair of scissors to cut off Brian’s restraints. However, right then, Brian calls James “brother” and refers to him as “one of the good ones.” Earlier in the movie, one of James’ colleagues uses the same expression as a racist microaggression. Due to the same, in the end, James snaps and shoots Brian.
Why Did Vanessa Hold Brian Hostage?
The film’s base conflict revolves around Vanessa’s decision to kidnap Brian Stanley, a cop. By doing so, Vanessa puts herself and her husband in a doomed predicament. Although Vanessa repeatedly insists her reckless actions are motivated by her desire for justice, it’s difficult to root for her at times. Vanessa wants Brian to answer why he killed a child. However, at the same time, Vanessa has already extrapolated the reason behind Brian’s actions too. Since the narrative is supposed to be misleading, Vanessa, like the other characters, assumes the kid Brian killed was Black.
Therefore, when Vanessa asks Brian why he killed the kid, she already knows what answer she wants to hear. As a result, after the group finds out that Brian killed a white kid, Vanessa’s impulsive need for control disappears. Although the outline of Brian’s actions hasn’t changed once the details get out, everyone, including Vanessa, is able to give Brian the benefit of the doubt. Since Brian’s motives can no longer be racially motivated, perhaps he’s telling the truth.
In the end, Vanessa is a complex character with complex motives. Although she seems to care about social issues, her activism is often performative or superficial. Simultaneously as a biracial woman, Vanessa faces a lot of discrimination, especially at her workplace, but then she turns around and exhibits classist behavior toward Candy herself. Vanessa wants to be in control, but she also wants blind support from her husband. This constant juxtaposition in her character leads to her holding Brian hostage. First, she accuses Brian of taking violent action under assumptions based on his worldview, but when the time comes, she does the same thing.
Did James Cheat on Vanessa?
When James and Jamal leave to get Brian’s medication, Vanessa and Candy take a sidebar, wherein Vanessa tells Candy about her mother. Vanessa’s mother, a white woman, has never been a part of her life. However, Vanessa met her once for lunch after getting an MBA. During lunch, Vanessa’s birth mother gave her one piece of advice that Vanessa decided to follow regardless of her hatred for the woman. The advice is: never marry a man who won’t cheat, marry one who won’t know how.
Therefore, Vanessa knows James well enough to have figured it out when he had an affair with Candy. Later, James tells Vanessa that he’s infertile, citing it as an explanation for his infidelity. James wants to give Vanessa everything, so he feels miserable that he can’t give her a baby as a man. When he cheated on Vanessa, he claims to have done so as a way to feel more like a man.
Perhaps, in the end, when James kills Brian, it is done with a similar motive. James loves Vanessa and wants to give her everything. It’s possible that regardless of the new information, James believes Brian killed a Black child. Throughout the movie, Brian repeatedly portrays racist behavior and lies about the race of his ex-wife. Ultimately, maybe James chose to believe Vanessa’s initial opinion about the victim’s race over the rest of the world’s.