Movie Review: "Fences"
- by Steve Garcia, 11 January 2017
Based on the play from August Wilson, Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson, a hardworking family man who once dreamed of making it as a professional baseball star, but was denied due to his old age. Spiteful, he aggressively takes it out on his son (Jovan Adepo) by pulling the plug on his budding football career, which set the stage for a tense, bumpy ride. Deemed “unfilmable” to some, did this ambitious play-to-film adaptation deliver? Let’s take a look.
From the second the film starts, Washington’s performance is loud, aggressive, and spectacular. An extraordinarily complex individual, he began as a relatable, breadwinning “dad of the year” type guy, who subtly turned into a flawed, ugly, and in many ways, an irredeemable mess of a human being, which was no easy feat for someone as likeable of an actor as he is. But even more impressive than the way he portrayed this tragic figure was the immense talent around him, specifically his wife Rose, played by Viola Davis, who once again proved her place as one of today’s elite actresses, ignoring the Suicide Squad stain from her resume. Exchanges between them were powerful, emotional, and when considering the subject manner, perhaps the most realistic representation of the events that transpired. There were times during this film where I felt like I was looking into their home in person, which is a rare occurrence that only happens when the chemistry between actors is impenetrably strong. In those ways, Fences was nearly flawless.
With little breathing room (or score for that matter) between dense scenes, however, the film teetered between the lines of outstanding and exhausting. Furthermore, it broke the “show, don’t tell” rule that cinema ultimately thrives on. Don’t get me wrong-- I cherish dialogue-heavy, single-set films more than most, but even the wordiest Tarantino movie revels in brief moments of silence, masterful nonverbal language, and most importantly in all cinema, shows you vital scenes on camera instead of just telling the audience about it after the fact. While the content that the audience did witness was undeniably awesome, it rarely broke out of its stagy mold and felt cinematic.
In summation, Fences showcases brilliant performances in a regrettably limiting format. The direct adaptation from play to film was an admirable risk, but in the end, it just didn’t feel like a movie. Despite that, however, it was still an ambitious directorial accomplishment for Washington, as there were absolutely no weaknesses in this armor of actors. His abilities exceeded expectations (yes, even still), and as fantastic as he was, Viola Davis hit an unforgettable grand slam that alone made the watch worth it. Indeed, this was Oscar-caliber work, and the pair of Washington and Davis was so remarkably strong, that if they don’t at least get some Best Actor/Actress nods, there simply isn’t justice in the world.
Have you seen "Fences"? Did ithe perfomances live up to your expectations? Leave us a comment!