“FENCES” A ‘MUST SEE’ MOVIE   Leave a comment

Viola Davis as Rose, in “Fences”, makes you afraid to breathe because you don’t want to miss a word, an emotion, she says, and shows on her face, but there are two particular scenes that are among the most mesmerizing ever seen on screen. Denzel Washington, as Troy, her husband, equals her performance but, unfortunately, never stops talking!

The Pulitzer Prize winning play written by August Wilson, who also wrote the screenplay, uses words like poetry but it is almost as if he didn’t want to cut a word of his for the screen and Washington, who also directed, gave him his lead as did producer Tony Kushner, also a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright. Plays are naturally ‘wordy’ and films are a different medium so while they may work on stage it doesn’t always work on film.

The director opens the film with some street scenes, a bar, following the garbage truck Troy works on, in a church but most takes place within the home and in the backyard of Rose and Troy’s home. Washington makes a few editing mistakes but he gets first rate performances of all his actors including himself.

Stephen Henderson, as Bono, Troy’s longtime friend knows the man and mostly accepts him for who he is while Russell Hornsby, as Troy’s son from another marriage, does not see himself as a failed musician but in his thirties still comes along on Fridays, his dad’s payday to borrow a few dollars. There is also Troy’s older brother who has a metal plate in his head and is brain damaged, due from his fighting in WW 2, played by Mykelti Williamson, is almost a cliché on screen while would be more believable on stage. In the latter part of the film young actress Saniyya Sidney shows Washington directs children to be as children are, not an older actress playing a child.

One of the main conflicts is between Troy and his high school football player son Cory, played by Jovan Adepo, with the father being particularly hard on his son. Is it for the son’s own good or is that just the way the man is?

Troy is not a particular nice person, though at times he can show a sense of humor, he can be, and usually is, hurtful to all around him. We try to like him mainly because we have come to love Rose and want to understand why she not only married this man but stayed with him for the next 18 years. Davis has a scene where she tries to explain to her son exactly that but we have listened to Troy talk way too much negatively, especially to his son, to all those around him to completely accept what she is saying. In addition Troy betrays Rose which would destroy a weaker woman than her.

“Fences” is a ‘must see’ movie if no other reason than to see Viola Davis but Denzel Washington and the rest of the cast are fine too. There is also the plus hearing August Wilson’s words on screen, with the promise of the other 9 plays he has written regarding different decades of Black Americans lives, being brought to the screen, all combine to get you in the movie theatre.




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