Fences concerns the loquacious, loud, proud and complex man, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his struggles with his subservient family. Fences is based on August Wilson’s play of the same name. Wilson adapted his play for the screen before his death in 2005, on the condition that an African American would direct the film. 11 years later Fences arrived on the silver screen. Denzel Washington took up the mantel of director, and he has delivered a masterful product.
Film Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)
Troy Maxson is an incredibly complex character that could have easily come off as an annoying asshole if a less capable actor had taken the reigns. Instead, Washington perfectly embodies Troy being all at once believably angry, vulnerable, happy, and, most importantly, real. I was left breathless several times during the movie as Washington ran the gambit of emotions in under a minute with ease.
Troy’s character reminds me of Washington’s multi-faceted character in Training Day, Detective Alonzo Harris. Washington delivers another layered performance as Troy, seemlessly revealing different aspects of his character. Washington may add a third academy award to his cabinet this year.
However, Washington wasn’t the only star in this film. Viola Davis played Rose, Troy’s wife. Halfway through the movie, Rose stands up to the intimidating Troy after hearing some tumultuous news and steals the spotlight. You can see the moment at the end of the trailer below. I could rewatch that scene over and over. It’s raw emotion. It doesn’t get any better.
Every character shares the screen with Troy, but he dominates and in the movie’s denouement Troy’s youngest son, Cory (brilliant newcomer, Jovan Adepo) reflects on his father’s pervasive character. Some people might grumble about this movie being too speech heavy, but it’s needed. Troy purposely fills the film to the brim through word count, volume, and screen time.
Troy harks back to a type of man who is difficult to find today. He is a tough father who believes his duty is to provide and protect, nothing more. His love is apparent in his deeds and he uses force to enforce his will and makes sure his family obeys. My grandfather was like this. Many men who lived through World War II became these types of fathers. Though, times have changed. Men and fathers are now more open about their emotions and open to changing their roles as the patriarchs of families. Whether this is a good or bad thing is unclear, but I think it’d be healthy for people to remember the type of family that once was. I know it made me more thankful for my parents.
The only thing keeping this movie from achieving a perfect 5 out of 5 movie score is that it was quite long and during the beginning I got bored. It lacked conflict and while it was necessary for achieving backstory and setting the mood. I believe Washington could have executed this more succinctly. Otherwise, it’s a tough but finely acted and directed story.
Target Audience: older crowds (21+) and serious movie and drama buffs.
For trailer, see below.
By Hagood Grantham