Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Movie Review: "Fences" (2016)

Director: Denzel Washington
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
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Garbage man Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) tries to take care of his family in 1950's Pittsburgh, though his actions, philosophies on life, and dissatisfaction with his own success continue to alienate more and more people. 

"Fences" is directed by and stars Denzel Washington. It is based on a stage play of the same name written by August Wilson, who also penned the screenplay. Washington plays Troy Maxson, a rubbish collector in 1950's Pittsburgh trying to take care of his family. Joining him is Viola Davis, who plays his wife Rose, Jovan Adepo, who plays their son Cory, Russell Hornsby, who plays Lyons, Troy's son from a previous relationship, Mykelti Williamson, who plays Troy's disabled brother Gabriel, and Stephen Henderson, who plays Troy's best friend Jim Bono.

This is a slice-of-life film that gives us a look into the Maxson family as a whole and as individuals. It is important to remember this is based on a stage play because it very much feels like one. The setting is mostly limited to the Maxson household and all of the comings and going that surround it. The way characters leave and enter scenes feels the way actors would exit stage left in plays as others enter stage right. The way the dialogue is written and the way characters interact all feel more stage than screen. Does this mean that this is a bad movie? Not in the slightest. Unlike some other stage-to-screen adaptations, "Fences" is incredibly and beautifully well put together. It is also tremendously and powerfully acted. Denzel Washington is fantastic as the hard-headed patriarch of the Maxson family who is very much a man of his time. He is the quintessential 1950's father figure who believes everyone has a specific role to play in the household and commands a certain amount of respect come hell or high water. While he is excellent here, he is most certainly upstaged by Viola Davis, who plays the infinitely understanding Rose. Rose faces a lot of trials in her relationship and gave up her dreams in pursuit of a life with Troy. She puts on an absolutely amazing, spectacular, Oscar-worthy performance. She has taken home many much deserved awards for best supporting actress. The only odd thing is, she is most certainly in a lead actress part here. Davis has about as much screen time as Washington does, but for some reason, she has been placed in the supporting category, which we think is a damn shame. Viola has given one of if not the best performance we have seen all year, lead, supporting, or otherwise, and we've seen A LOT OF films this year. Another really notable performance is that of Stephen Henderson, who does a great job as Troy's best bud Bono. He and Washington have some great witty and charming banter together, and he is a very likable and endearing character as Troy's lifelong friend who tries to talk him into and out of certain situations that arise over the course of the movie.

The emotion from these strong performances and the nuanced direction make "Fences" worth watching. Combine this with a very personal human drama many viewers can relate to, as well as some great writing, and you've got one of the year's top dramas that will sneak up on you and will leave you in tears if you're not careful.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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