Fences (2016)

fences poster 2016 movie viola davis denzel washington
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Strong story and cast

Obviously a play adaptation in acting style and dialogue which doesn't always work

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Fences

Studio:  Bron Creative

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  December 15, 2016 (Premiere)/December 16, 2016 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

fences troy rose kissing denzel washington viola davis

Don’t worry Rose…I won’t hurt you…a ton

Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) spends his week working as a trash collector in Pittsburgh so he can enjoy his weekends at home.  His wife Rose (Viola Davis) has adjusted to her husband’s verbose nature and storytelling, but their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) can’t get past his father trying to control his life.  Troy tries to balance his home life with the life of his brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) who was injured in the War and a son from a previous relationship named Lyons (Russell Hornsby).  Against the warnings of his friend Jim Bono (Stephen Henderson), Troy makes a mistake that could risk it all.

fences troy maxson son cory jovan adepo denzel washington

I don’t have to like you!

Directed by Denzel Washington, Fences adapts the 1983 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play by August Wilson.  The film was released to critical acclaim and a strong box office showing.  The movie won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Davis) with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Washington), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Fences has been in the works for years.  Wilson wanted an African-American director which led to difficulties to have the movie produced until Washington (who performed it on Broadway with Davis) stepped in.  Watching Fences, I can tell it is an awesome play, but awesome plays don’t always make the best movies.

fences troy batting denzel washington

Swing for the fences!

Fences isn’t bad by any means, but you can tell it is a play.  The writing for the movie is very dense and probably takes some studying to find out the layers.  There is a lot going on in the movie’s story involving guilt, fear, love, lust, and so many core emotions.  The dialogue doesn’t necessarily roll off the tongue or sound natural.  It is modern, but it has a Shakespearian feel to it due to the smartness and layered nature of the quick fired dialogue (especially Washington’s storytelling).

Acting also becomes a challenge in adapting plays.  Washington’s delivery and screen presence takes more of a stage presence.  On the stage, an actor has to reach the people in the front row and the back row…it isn’t the same on screen with audio and close ups.  Washington is strong, but he’s play acting.  Viola Davis seems to be adapting her role more for the screen and comes off stronger as a result.  There is still the challenge of play dialogue and Davis seems to handle the translation to screen better.

fences rose maxson viola davis

I’m trapped…by a fence…in the movie Fences…damn symbolism

The movie’s play factor is less of an effect on the visuals.  The movie looks good and the movie has an obvious set look with the backyard of the house being the main set piece.  The Pittsburgh location is also different and interesting (it was part of Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycles plays) since it seems like movies from this period aren’t generally set there.

Fences is a good movie, but it isn’t a great movie…because you can tell it is a great play.  It isn’t a bad problem to have since many won’t see the play, but it is a problem for the film.  Great acting and complex characters do make for study that can reach a broad audience.  I’d like to see Fences on the stage, but if I can’t, this is a good substitute.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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