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"Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build
fences to keep people in."
The first thing movie-goers should understand about Fences is that it is very much a filmed play. An adaption of August Wilson's Tony- winning play, director Denzel Washington has kept the project as minimalist as possible. There's good reason for this. Wilson's words are exciting enough that there is just no need for big action, large sets nor grandiose cinematography. Fences is a small, intimate story about Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his close-knit circle of family and friends. This small cast of characters is used to speak volumes about how far the Black community had come in overcoming prejudices by the 50s-era the story takes place in, but how far they still had to go. It talks about the roles of husbands, wives and children; the sacrifices we all make to support each other, often giving up our own dreams but never losing sight of them.
Much has been said of the performances here, and with good reason. They're terrific. Viola Davis will get her Oscar this year, there's little doubt in my mind. Her Rose Maxson is so reserved and subtle for much of the film, allowing Troy's continual imperfections and abuses to store inside her and chip away at her emotionally until the final straw causes her to erupt near the final act of the movie. It's an emotional and painful performance to observe, and one many, particularly long-time wives and mothers, will find easy to relate to but at times difficult to watch.
As for Washington, I find it difficult to understand why he isn't the front-runner for Best Actor this year. I've seen front-runner Casey Affleck's performance in Manchester By The Sea and it is excellent and look forward to Ryan Gosling's turn in La La Land; but what Washington does in Fences is special. Simpy put, it's one of the best performances I've ever seen an actor give. Troy is a very imperfect man to say the least. He's not necessarily a "bad guy", in fact most men will be able to see a little of themselves in Troy. He's a likable personality who does some despicable things. HIs tough love approach to raising his son seems more out of spite than love. And while there can be no doubt that he loves Rose, his behavior proves that love and respect are not the same thing. Washington crawls into this raw and complex character, becoming Troy to the extent that no matter how big a star Washington is, you forget you're watching an actor.
The supporting cast fairs well, particularly Stephen Henderson as Troy's friend and work-mate Bono, Jovan Adepo as his son Cory and Mykelti Williamson as his mentally-challenged brother Gabriel. Everyone seems to be working their hardest to do Wilson's words justice, and their efforts result it what may be the most overall well-acted film of the year.
Fences won't appeal to everyone. Those looking for action and extravaganza, this is not your movie. But if you're like me and enjoy watching good actors perform a well-written script, then you'll be enthralled by every minute of Fences.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First let me say that this is a powerful, engaging film. Seemingly,
however stereotypical, the opening of this movie feels like a stage
play exposition. Although moving forward I found myself increasingly
involved in the life of, to me, a thoroughly selfish, almost
despicable, protagonist. Denzel Washington inhabits his role as one
would fit into a perfectly tailored suit. The depth of his character
fits him like a glove. The dislike of his "Troy' is palpable. It is
Viola Davis' performance that gives us any acceptance, and even a
modicum of empathy, for his unrelenting dis- likability. Her 'Rose' is
a tour-de-force and one of the most honest performances ever put on
I personally see it as less a film about a man coming to grips with prejudice than as a damaged child trying to make sense of a world over which he was unable to reconcile his life. In the greater scheme of things, yes, he had a menial job, but he did have a job. He has a family that he treats as possessions rather than people. When his son accuses him of not wanting him to surpass his father in life, there is a validity to the claim.
The direction, cinematography, music and period feel, with the exception of an uneven opening, proves Washington a masterful film maker. The difficulty in adapting a stage play to the screen is almost overcome with only a few scenes playing like a filmed stage set.
If it were up to me both Denzel and Viola would receive the top 'Best' academy awards with Denzel also receiving a nomination for best director. Unfortunately the stiffness of the script, in my opinion, should keep it from a best film nomination (although it will probably get one). As a side note, it seems silly for Viola Davis to be entered into the competitions in a supporting category. She is the strength of the movie and in too many scenes to even be considered 'supporting.'
Saw an advanced screening of #FencesMovie tonight with the Minnie. I
knew just by looking at the cast that this was going to be a new
Troy's (played by Denzel Washington) larger than life personality will make you laugh, cry, and everything in between. The film is truly heart-warming and very appropriate for the entire family. Full of morals, lessons, and life's hidden nuggets of gold, #FencesMovie will tug at your heart and make you appreciate your own family: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
After all, our family, or lack thereof, is what helps us build character!
Denzel Washington is clearly one of the best actors we have ever had,
African-American or otherwise. Whether it has been in serious,
sober-minded films like GLORY, MALCOLM X, and COURAGE UNDER FIRE, or
explosive action films like CRIMSON TIDE, MAN ON FIRE, and UNSTOPPABLE,
Washington has given all of himself, and then some. And then, like more
than a few great actors, he also itched to get behind, as well as in
front of, the camera as a director, which he did in 2002 with ANTWONE
FISHER, and again in 2007 with THE GREAT DEBATERS. He does double duty
again for one of the most insightful and true films of 2016, FENCES.
Scripted by noted playwright August Wilson from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, FENCES stars Washington as an average Joe-type sanitation worker in late 1950s Pittsburgh dealing with the world at large. He had been a baseball player once before World War II, but it never amounted to much; and when one of his sons (Jovan Adepo) wants to get into football while going to college, Washington tries to steer him away, managing only to alienate his son further than he already is. Washington does have a good friend in Mr. Bono (Stephen Henderson), but he is still troubled by a dark park of himself, one that threatens the eighteen-year marriage between him and his wife Rose (Viola Davis).
Adapting stage plays to the screen is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, because what works on a stage needs a great deal to transfer it to a movie, and a real, breathing set. Fortunately, Washington found a way of making it happen by filming in a part of Pittsburgh that seems not to have changed all that much from the way it must have looked in the actual time that FENCES is set. Wilson's stage play and screenplay are full of language and slang that is very right for the times, and, yes, this does include a profuse use of the 'N' word. But a certain amount of uncomfortable language is what is necessary for a story like this, especially given that it involves not only Washington on both sides of the camera, but also another hugely superb performance by Davis as his wife, who manages to somehow stand by her man despite the horrible secret he reveals near the end. Equally fine in supporting roles are Adepo and Henderson, as well as Mykelti Williamson as a former war buddy of his whose mind isn't right because of a severe head wound suffered in the war, and Russell Hornsby as Washington's son by an earlier marriage who constantly comes to his dad on payday for ten-dollar loans.
Though it is an African-American cast and story, FENCES works because it feels universal, and it is a story that could happen in any family, regardless of skin color or ethnicity. Washington and Wilson (who passed away in 2005, and thus never saw FENCES make it to the big screen) make this very clear but in a non-heavy-handed way, and with dialogue scenes that are often long but never dull, earning it justifiable and favorable comparisons to Arthur Miller's classic "Death Of A Salesman".
All of these elements make FENCES easily one of the best films of 2016, and a sure-fire winner likely to be regarded as a classic in a very short time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Review (with Spoilers)
Troy (Denzel Washington) | Rose (Viola Davis) | Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) | Mr. Bono (Stephen Henderson) |Lyons (Russel Hornsby)
When a boy is forced to become a man at 14, his life is basically trial and error. Such is the case with Troy Maxson. This boy, one of eleven, left home ventured out and only found trouble. Made a baby in the process, found a woman after he paid his debt to society, and then was on the straight and narrow. However, men get old. Women get old too. There comes a point where find yourself looking around at all you have, all you have obtained through purchase or loyalty, and ask is it enough? Is it enough to have a wife and two healthy boys? Is it enough to have a husband, a good relationship with your stepson and a healthy one with your own? Is it enough to have a girl who sticks by you and a dad who, after giving you some lip, will loan you money. Is it enough to have both parents in the house if one seems to treat you like an obligation when it comes to caring for you? We are told fences are made to keep things, or people, in or out. But it may just be possibilities too we are trying to keep at bay.
Things To Note
Though initially upset by the idea of Viola Davis not going for the Best Actress nominations, with her role basically being part of softening and redeeming Troy, it makes sense for her to go for Best Supporting Actress. Even if she is the only woman we ever see.
It's a Lean Production
Though over two hours, with things mostly focused just on Troy and Rose, featuring some comic relief from Gabriel and Mr. Bono, this is a tight production. In fact, based off not having the privilege of seeing the play when Davis and Washington were in it, you could argue this is almost as direct of an adaptation you could get. There is no extra fluff, some spare characters whose place don't seem like they were in the original blueprints. Everything which needs to be a part of this story to tell it right, it's here, well oiled, and in working order.
Mr. Washington and Ms. Davis
With that said, let's talk about the two main characters. Now, prepare for theatrical dramatic/comedic monologues a lot. Nearly half the time Washington speaks it isn't to have a conversation but to express the inner workings of Troy. Why Troy acts the way he does, why he did this stupid thing, him explaining why he wasn't in his oldest son's Lyons' life. In many ways, his role seems like it is straight from the stage, nothing changed but now he doesn't have to turn to the audience but just look in the camera. But, as much as he may get dramatic and bring tears to your eyes, maybe even think of the relationship you have with your own father if it isn't some ideal sitcom type, he is funny too. Though there ain't a review for it here, it reminds me of watching Joe Morton in Let Me Loose. For every sob story, there is a joke somewhere in between. Reminding you things have gotten somewhat better since then so no need for your pity. While things may still look hard, and certainly Troy may not have a white man's privilege, at least he isn't out on the streets homeless and alone.
As for Davis, oh boy. I question sometimes when actors talk about being intimidated by the presence of another. Could it be that serious? Yet, as Davis performs against Washington, you begin to understand an actor's fear. Hell, a writer's fear of doing this woman justice. For while I can't recall a single role when Davis wasn't playing someone who is suffering, that is her bread and butter. So, with that, seeing her go against Denzel and really make it seem she has him on the ropes. The man who this play is centered around, it was something. She made you tremble as that one snippet about how Rose has been standing there with Troy gets expanded. As you come to terms with your own standing in life. What compromises you make for certain relationships to continue and how there has to be a point where you got to wonder if it is a compromise or have you given yourself over and only gotten the other person's burdens in return. Burdens you have no idea what to do with besides try to untangle only to find the other person makes knots after you thought you were done.
The Peace of Being Simple
A small thing I think worth noting is Gabriel. Like Rose, she is what helps humanize and shape Troy. But, separate from Troy, it is also nice to see a character like Gabriel who maybe simple, but he is not stupid. For while, at times, he seems like a comic relief, it is through him we get some of the most touching moments. Especially the ending.
Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)
A film which makes you think, reflect, and feel. I don't feel like I watch enough of those. So when films like this come along, it is like cleaning your palate. It is like, being reminded of what a quality drama can be, and how from the old to the young, it isn't unfair to expect every character to make an effort to not just connect with you but to make you feel something. Now, I might not have cried like I thought I would, but damn if this doesn't put some perspective on your life, maybe your daddy's life, and make you contemplate on your way home what you going to do about your life.
Greetings again from the darkness. Just about any use of words you can
think of serves some part in this screen adaptation of renowned
playwright August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize and multiple Tony award
winning stage production. It first hit Broadway in 1987 with James Earl
Jones and Mary Alice in the leads, and the 2010 revival starred Denzel
Washington and Viola Davis both who reprise their roles for the movie
version. It's also the third directorial feature from Mr. Washington
(The Great Debaters, Antwone Fisher).
The story takes place in mid-1950's Pittsburgh and is a family drama character study centered on patriarch Troy Maxson (Washington), a former Negro League star and ex-con, who now works days on a garbage truck before coming home to his wife Rose of 18 years (Ms. Davis) and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo, "The Leftovers"). The Friday night after work ritual finds Troy holding court in his backyard with his best friend and co-worker Bono (Stephen Henderson), as they share a bottle of gin and pontificate on the injustices that have landed them in this place and time.
Another regular Friday occurrence is the drop-in of Troy's son by his first wife. Lyons (Russell Hornsby) is a musician who shows up on payday for a "loan" from dad. To say there is tension between the two would be an understatement, and it's the complex relationships between Troy and everyone else that is the crux of the story. Another player here is Troy's brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), who periodically wanders by talking about battling demons and hellhounds. See, Gabriel suffered a severe head injury during WWII and now has a plate in his head but no real place in society.
Troy is a proud and bitter man, unwilling to acknowledge that the world is changing. Instead he holds firm to his belief that the white man will always hold back the man of color. It happened to him in baseball (though actually he was too old by the time Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers) and he refuses to believe Cory can succeed in football despite his being recruited by a college. Troy jumps between charming and caustic, and his fast-talking bellowing style can be entertaining, enlightening, condescending and intimidating sometimes all of the above within a few sentences.
There is magic in the words of Austin Wilson, and as a film, this is a true acting clinic. The performances keep us glued to the screen in each scene. Denzel is a dominating presence, and the single best moment belongs to the terrific Viola Davis. Her explosive release conveys the agony-of-the-years, the broken dreams, and the crushing blow of broken trust. As a viewer, we aren't sure whether to stand and applaud her or comfort her with a warm hug. The only possible criticism might be that the stage roots are obvious in the film version. The theatrical feel comes courtesy of the sets which are minimal and basic with no visual wow factor. But this minor drawback only serves to emphasize the characters and their interactions.
It's pointed out to us (and Troy) that fences can be used to keep things out or keep things in. During his pontificating, Troy uses a couple of phrases more than once: "Living with a full count", and "Take the crooked with the straight". He often waxes philosophical, and it's through these words that we realize both he and Rose took their sense of duty and responsibility so seriously that they both lost their selves in the process. Making do with one's situation should not mean the end of dreams and hopes, and it certainly gives no one the right to hold back anyone from pursuing the path they choose. While watching the actors, don't miss the message.
When you pair up Denzel Washington with Viola Davis on screen, you know
you're in for two of the most outstanding performances you'll see all
year and that's exactly what you get from FENCES. That said, if only
director Denzel Washington and his crew could've figured out some ways
to lessen the stage play feel to it and make this seem more cinematic.
But then again, breaking out of that format is indeed usually the
challenge when dealing with straight up adaptations from stage plays,
just like "August: Osage County" a few years ago.
Scripted by August Wilson, adapted by Wilson's own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Denzel Washington plays an African-American father struggling with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s. He's still bitter from his doomed baseball career in the past, blames it on the white man, so when his son tries to get into sports, he discourages him, telling him that the white man wouldn't give him a single opportunity out there in the field. Denzel's character's wife, played by Viola Davis, faithfully stands by his side despite the secret that would change their family forever.
Story-wise, it doesn't get more well-thought out than FENCES, it's dialogue-driven, it's performance-driven, this material is every actor's dream come true because it has so many layers and it provides room for you to showcase the best version of your chops. We know Denzel and Viola Davis are phenomenal, but FENCES allows them to venture into places and show us shades that may not have been seen before. And I'm sure it feels liberating for all the actors involved in this film to just dig deep down, tap into those emotions and lay them bare for the world to see, and there's no wrong way of doing it.
The conflicts in FENCES are powerful, like a fist through a wall. Nuances surround the characters so you end up understanding where they're coming from despite being in agreement or disagreement with many of their decisions. To a certain extent, I think Quentin Tarantino and Aaron Sorkin fans would find FENCES appealing since each of the characters has incredibly long lines that run like 100 mph. Marital affair, resentments, built up hatred, forgiving your past, there's no shortage of drama in FENCES, its cup overflows. But again, as I said earlier, I think there's a missed opportunity here, the film just didn't do enough to make itself appear cinematic. Composer Marcelo Zarvos' music is almost non-existent. Forget the backseat, many of film's elements are practically locked up in the trunk.
Denzel Washington as Director and lead actor of the movie Fences is excellent. Denzel Washington as a middle aged Troy Maxson and his wife Viola Davis as Rose Maxson seemed too real. Perfect mannerisms of a black, happy husband and wife. Stephen Henderson ( seen recently in Manchester by the sea)as Troy's friend for years was terrific. Troy, disciplined in his own way, has his share of foibles. Rose recognizes his pitfalls and is strong in her own opinions about how people have to be dealt with. Rose shows her maternal instincts in dealing with Troy's mentally disturbed brother Gabriel. Rose is lovable and kind . Rose respects Troy's son Lyons. And then of course their son Cory who is not too happy with dad's interference in his desire to play football. Rose does extremely well in taking care of Raynell because she is motherless and does not hesitate telling her husband Troy that now he has no woman in his life. Script is great . I enjoyed the screenplay , Direction, acting . Oscar worthy. Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson... terrific.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is a great example of how exceptional writing can rivet an
It's based on a play, I understand. For anyone as unfamiliar as myself, the easiest way to describe it is as being very reminiscent of Death Of A Salesman. It follows in that long line of stories about Patriarchs crushed under the weight of their own psychological implosion, King Lear, the Old Testament's Nebuchadnezzar and so on.
The quality of the writing is such that, by focussing on the psychology of one man and his own life, and its impact on his family, it makes you think about your own life and certainly your relationship with your father. It's called Fences, I interpreted this as the psychological fences people erect to protect themselves, fences which tragically keep those closest to you out.
There was a little unevenness, the beginning seemed on the long side, but when the story steps up a gear, it seemed a little underdeveloped. But this is really a small issue. The writing pulls you in masterfully and exceptional actors work their magic with it. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis deliver master classes in power and nuance.
I'm surprised that the IMDb description has it as being concerned with race relations. As far as I could see it had little to do with it and was instead concerned with the emotional faultlines of a family in a totally universally relateable way.
Really worth it, go see it.
A very strong emotional performance by the great Denzel Washington, not
his best per say but it gives us everything we love about this great
actor. A well driven vehicle for Washington as well as well made by
Washington who also directed the film.
Denzel and Viola Davis were a pretty outstanding combination. It seems like a no brainier that one day these two would work together on this level and here it is. It was worth seeing just to see these two as a couple going through their hard times.
It's a very basic movie, despite putting some money into the CGI to make it look like the 1950s, it all takes place in one area and relies a lot on the experience actors and the performances they give, so little is done to change the tone. It really feels like the movie is giving us a Broadway production.
It was also very gritty. Denzel and Viola gave some real life to these characters. It's very rare that you get the movie star whose also an actor and he's unafraid to open up, but that's what Denzel does and so did Viola, just not afraid to let it all hang out for the role.
Worth seeing to see some real craftsmanship in acting. It was a great movie adaption to a great play.
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