Sunday, December 25, 2016

Fences - Review


Denzel Washington directs and stars in the adaptation of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Fences” which centers on a black garbage collector named Troy Maxson during the 1950s in Pittsburgh, PA. The story is mostly centralized around Troy’s life as a bitter husband and bitter father. His bitterness stems largely from when he was a younger man playing the game he loved baseball. Life didn’t give him a fair break back then because of his color and now that he is older and the baseball color barrier is broken by (in his estimation) inferior talent, he is constantly prone to filtering every conversation, every event, every relationship and every loved one through his own frustrations of not having a better life denied to him.

REVIEW: This is one of the finest acting performances I have seen this year. Washington and his co-star Viola Davis both won Broadway Tony awards for their performances in the 2010 revival of the play. In the film these two actors eat up the screen with genuine warmth, anger, affection and overall genuine energy like few actors I have ever see. They don’t just recite their lines, they are living inside them; inhabiting these fictional characters with so much vitality it is hard to imagine they never really existed.

As a whole all of the performances are stunning, but especially the two leads in Denzel and Viola who I am almost 100% certain will garner respective Oscar Nominations for Best Lead Actor and Best Supporting Actress. In addition other nomination will likely include Best Picture and Best Director for Denzel as well. He delivers in “Fences” not only one of this year's best performances, it is one of the best self-directed performances I have ever seen. In addition Mykelti Williamson who rounded out the supporting cast as Troy’s mental impaired younger brother Gabriel was extraordinary as well and richly deserves some Oscar nomination consideration as well. But in the end it is Miss Viola Davis who takes hold of the film with grace, power, femininity and heart. Dust off your mantle place Miss Davis to clear space for your Academy Award Oscar, its coming your way this year.  

For the film itself, “Fences” executes for the viewer like being randomly dropped into someone’s life completely unannounced for a visit. With 75% of the film’s vibrant exchanges taking place in the rear of the Maxson home in lawn chairs and on the rear steps, you feel immediately drawn into who these people are enjoying every second you spend with them. But when circumstances make moments overly harsh and contentious to watch you keep watching because the film is so good. And while the film has a running time of 2 hours 13 minute,  with the exception of the last 20 minutes having some scenes turning a bit stagey and preachy, the film overall never really feels like the theatric play upon which it is based.

Ultimately “Fences” is a cinematic journey of moments of sizzling anger and subtle tenderness. A film of powerful emotions that tap into an ordinary working family’s day to day vernacular, their day to day anxieties and their day to day offering of love to one another that for better or worse can also sometimes  collectively and spontaneously intersect into combustible feelings that are viscerally raw and gut wrenching. It’s not an ordinary movie with ordinary conversation, its working class poetry operating as day to day conversations that perfectly penetrates the ears, the mind, the heart and the soul delivered via perfect writing and perfect acting.

“Fences” is a profoundly powerful movie going experience............... “SO, WHAT DAT MEAN? (A line from the film)………. Well, it means “Fences” is one of the best must see films for 2016.

4 Stars

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