Review: Fences

Are you keeping people in or out?

Troy Maxon (Densel Washington) is an African-American man trying to make his way in the 50's. He got into some trouble when he was young, did a little prison time, played negro league baseball, but never made it to the majors. (He says it's because of his skin, his wife, Rose (Viola Davis) alludes to it being more about his age) Ever since then, he's struggled. He works as a garbage man, the only reason he has a house is because the government gave him money after his brother Gabe (Mykelti Williamson) was wounded in the war. His son, Cory (Jovan Adepo) wants to play college football, but Troy won't allow it as he believes there's too much racial bias. 

The time period for this film is at an interesting place. It's 1954, the Civil Rights movement is about to start, but it hasn't reached Troy. Troy is stuck in his life. He lives by his responsibilities. He doesn't nurture his sons, he just "does right" by them. And we see how that affects Cory, and to a lesser extend Lyons (Russell Hornsby) who is his son from a previous relationship. It's easy to dislike Troy. Very easy, but it's also sad to watch him. He doesn't have the skills to go further in life, he's been denied them.

The cast is outstanding. It's probably the strongest ensemble I've seen all year aside from Moonlight. Denzel Washington has a lot on his plate with the lead role and directing, but he handles it well and gives one of the best performances of his career. Viola Davis is the heart of the film. She's in no way a supporting performance like she's being campaigned for, she's at the very center. Her kindess is what's holding everyone together. She's a saint. Mykelti Williamson continues to be an underrated gem. He has the hard task of playing a man suffering from a disability due to a gunshot wound, that's not easy to play.

Denzel's directing feels very much like the play this is based on. It's a small set, usually in the Maxon backyard or kitchen. The camera follows the actors as if they were on stage. Because of the long monologues, it can feel a little draining at times. It's a very dialogue heavy film and while it does feel repetitive, it never falls into the "boring" category. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "I've been chasing Hell hounds." - Gabe (Mykelti Williamson)

9 comments:

  1. Yes! He really kept the essence of a stage production. I actually do think Viola is supporting, and she is incredible. THIS IS THE FILM EVERYONE SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT.

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    1. I felt like she had nearly as much screen time as Denzel though. I don't think she's as big of category fraud as Rooney and Alicia were last year, but it's up there. I agree more should be talking about this.

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  2. I watched it recently and I was so much agitated. The film feels like a play (I know that it is adapted from a play), but the one-page monologue? Amazing. No wonder the leads deserved awards for their performance here.

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    1. They definitely do, they were wonderful.

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  3. I'm SLIGHTLY more okay with Viola going Supporting than I was with Mara and Vikander last year, but still. She's a Lead. Give the woman her damn due.

    Anyway, I thought this was super entertaining and so well done. I don't understand the constant "stagy" criticism - it mirrors how trapped/fenced-in the characters are.

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    1. It definitely isn't as glaring as Vikander or Mara because she does legit disappear for a while where the other two don't. lol

      I don't think "stagy" is a huge criticism, but it did give off a speechifying feeling because there were so many monologues.

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  4. Nice review! Fences is one of my top-favorites of the award show season from what I've seen. The direction and performances were amazing.

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    1. Same. It's getting really hard to narrow down my top 10.

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  5. Highly recommended for its ensemble of great performances by a supremely talented cast.

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